Watch Giant Solar Flare 19 Times Bigger Than Earth Erupt From Sun's Surface

An Arizona-based astrophotographer has created an incredible time-lapse video of the sun, which shows a pair of powerful solar flares in action.

The video was produced by Andrew McCarthy, who lives in the town of Florence, using around a million photos of the sun that he took with a special telescope.

McCarthy said the largest of the two flares that he captured ejected material around 150,000 miles into space, which is roughly equivalent to 19 Earths laid on top of each other.

Solar flares are giant magnetic eruptions that occur in a localized region of the sun's atmosphere and spew out electromagnetic radiation, such as X-rays, visible light and ultraviolet light.

"[It was] pretty large!" McCarthy told Newsweek in reference to the bigger flare. "I was absolutely thrilled [to see the flares]. They're quite bright relative to the ordinary prominences, so it stood out relative to the rest of the features. When it happened I immediately leapt out of my chair and immediately messaged all my astronomy peers about the event.

"Powerful flares can send high-energy particles towards earth, which can potentially damage satellites and create fascinating aurora as they are guided by our magnetic field towards the poles," he said.

However, in this case the flares, which lasted around 5-10 minutes each, were pointed away from Earth, so they didn't produce any noticeable space weather effects on our planet.

McCarthy captured the photos for the time-lapse on April 30, 2022. While the video itself only lasts for around 30 seconds, it actually reflects around seven hours of solar activity.

The telescope the astrophotographer used was modified with special filters that made it safe for viewing the sun, while enabling him to see atmospheric details of our star.

"Do NOT point a telescope at the sun unless you know what you're doing. People have gone blind trying," McCarthy said.

A solar flare at the sun
Stock image: A solar flare occurring on the sun. An Arizona-based astrophotographer has created an incredible time-lapse video of the sun, which shows a pair of powerful solar flares. iStock

The astrophotographer is self-taught and has had no professional training but is able to practice full-time thanks to support from people who enjoy his work.

"Solar astronomy is a passion of mine, and as the sun gets more active heading into the peak period of its 11-year cycle, I will likely be doing these more and more," he said.

Solar activity is defined by an 11-year cycle, marked by periods of high and low activity known as solar maximums and minimums. During solar maximums, the number of sunspots increases and the effects of space weather on the near-Earth environment tend to be greater.

Sunspots are dark regions that arise temporarily on the solar surface with particularly strong magnetic fields. They are often associated with solar flares and other types of solar eruptions, such as coronal mass ejections.

Currently, the sun is starting to get more active as it moves out of a solar minimum and approaches a solar maximum.

"I have been observing the sun practically daily," McCarthy said. "I recently captured the largest sunspot grouping I've ever seen. Activity has been really increasing, and will increase more as we head further into solar maximum."

"Our universe is incredible, and there are endless things to discover within it," he said. "My hope is that seeing my work will inspire others to look up more, we're always on the cusp of the next great discovery."