Skip to main content

Watch the sun fire off huge solar flares in this mesmerizing NASA video

A new NASA video from a spacecraft watching the sun has captured spectacular views of solar flares erupting from the star this week just ahead of Halloween. 

The video, taken by NASA's Solar Dynamics Orbiter, shows mesmerizing close-up views of solar flares blasting off the sun between Monday and Thursday (Oct. 25-28), ending with a major X1-class solar storm that could amplify Earth's northern lights displays over Halloween weekend. 

"Brighter than a shimmering ghost, faster than the flick of a black cat's tail, the sun cast a spell in our direction, just in time for Halloween," NASA officials wrote in a video description.

Related: The sun's wrath: Worst solar storms in history

NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory captured this stunning image, a still from a video,  of a powerful X1 flare erupting from the sun on Oct. 28, 2021. (Image credit: NASA/GSFC/SDO)
See the northern lights?

If you take a photograph of the Halloween northern lights from the solar flare, send images and comments in to spacephotos@space.com.

The video begins with a series of solar eruptions on Monday from an active region on the left limb (or side) of the sun that "flickered with a series of small flares and petal-like eruptions of solar material," NASA officials wrote. 

Perhaps more impressive was the X1 solar flare, which exploded Thursday from a sunspot in the lower center of the sun, directly facing the Earth. X-class flares are the most powerful types of solar storms the sun can have. 

"Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation," NASA officials wrote in the video description. "Harmful radiation from a flare cannot pass through Earth's atmosphere to physically affect humans on the ground, however — when intense enough — they can disturb the atmosphere in the layer where GPS and communications signals travel."

The Solar Dynamics Orbiter is part of a fleet of different spacecraft that constantly track the sun's weather for such storms.

Thursday's flare was accompanied by a radiation storm and a massive eruption of solar material, called a coronal mass ejection, that flung charged solar particles outward at over 2.5 million mph (4 million kph). Those particles should reach Earth this weekend and could supercharge the planet's auroras, also known as the northern and southern lights. 

Earth's auroras occur when charged particles from the sun interact with the upper atmosphere, causing an ethereal glow. The Earth's magnetic field funnels these particles toward polar regions, so they're typically visible at high, northern latitudes in our hemisphere.  

But the additional particles from Thursday's solar storm could amplify the auroras to make them visible from much farther south, possibly as far south as New York, Idaho, Illinois, Oregon, Maryland and Nevada, NASA scientists have said. 

It can be difficult to see any auroras if you live near city lights as light pollution can wash out the glow, and they definitely won't be as dazzling as the displays seen at high latitudes or by astronauts in space. 

For tips on how to catch auroras on camera, check out our guides on where and how to photograph the aurora, as well as the best equipment for aurora photography and how to edit aurora photos once you have them.

And camera gear is what you need, consider our best cameras for astrophotography and best lenses for astrophotography.

Editor's note: If you snap an amazing photo of the northern lights this weekend, let us know. You can send images and comments in to spacephotos@space.com

Email Tariq Malik at tmalik@space.com or follow him @tariqjmalik. Follow us @SpacedotcomFacebook and Instagram

Join our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more! And if you have a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at: community@space.com.

Tariq Malik

Tariq is the Editor-in-Chief of Space.com and joined the team in 2001 as a staff writer, and later editor, covering human spaceflight, exploration and space science. He became Space.com's Managing Editor in 2009 and Editor-in-Chief in 2019. Before joining Space.com, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Twitter.