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Are giant dragons flying out of the Sun? No, this is much more awesome than that: it’s an image of an X-class flare that erupted from active region 2017 on March 29, as seen by NASA’s Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph (IRIS) spacecraft. It was not only IRIS’s first view of such a powerful flare, but with four other solar observatories in space and on the ground watching at the same time it was the best-observed solar flare ever.
(But it does kind of look like a dragon. Or maybe a phoenix. Ah, pareidolia!)
Check out a video from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center below:
In addition to IRIS, the March 29 flare was observed by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), NASA’s Reuven Ramaty High Energy Solar Spectroscopic Imager (RHESSI), JAXA and NASA’s Hinode spacecraft, and the National Solar Observatory’s Dunn Solar Telescope in New Mexico.
With each telescope equipped with instruments specially designed to observe the Sun in specific wavelengths almost no detail of this particular flare went unnoticed, giving scientists comprehensive data on the complex behavior of a single solar eruption.
Also, for another look at this flare from SDO and a coronal dimming event apparently associated with it, check out Dean Pesnell’s entry on the SDO is GO! blog here.