We live a mere 93 million miles from an enormous fusion reactor. It's easy to overlook this, after all the Sun is only about halfway through its long slog of converting protons into helium nuclei deep inside its core. Decommissioning is still a few billion years in the future.

But our nearest star can occasionally remind us that it's big, powerful, and a bit glitchy. Back on March 11th 2015 it produced the first really strong X class flare of the year - dumping a bit of particle energy into our ionosphere and blacking out some radios for a while. As these things go it was pretty tame, but NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory - perched in its geosynchronous orbit - caught some astonishing footage of the flare event in the extreme ultraviolet part of the electromagnetic spectrum. To put things into perspective, this first image (combining two spectral bands at 171 -gold, and 131 - teal, Angstroms) shows the relative scale of the Earth and Sun. The flare's origin is the bright white/blue splash, this is an X2.2 event - a big one.

Gulp (NASA/SDO)

This next image shows a rather dull looking visible light image of the solar photosphere - the Sun is very quiet, except for the sunspot at the flare's location.

The site of the flare - a sunspot (Credit: NASA/SDO)

 

 

 

 

 

 

And now, let's unleash the...erm...well, the Sun.

For more images and movies you should check out the NASA SDO website, and also its YouTube site here. Also, check out the lovely Helioviewer.org site