<p>A <a href="http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2011/06/110608-solar-flare-sun-science-space/">solar flare on June 7 unleashed a massive eruption on the sun</a> (pictured)—perhaps the biggest ever recorded, scientists say. (<a href="http://www.lmsal.com/~schryver/Public/AIA/AIA-211_193_171_20110607T053556_30s_hugefilamenteruption.mov">Watch a video of the solar flare.</a>)</p><p>The solar flare itself—an unusually bright spot on the sun—was only a "moderate" event. Space observatories in the past year recorded about 70 such solar flares, each roughly ten times weaker than "extreme" flares, of which only two have occurred since 2007.</p><p>(Related:<a href="http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2011/02/110216-largest-biggest-solar-flare-sun-sunspot-1158-science-space-nasa/"> "Biggest Solar Flare in Years—Auroras to Be Widespread Tonight?"</a>)</p><p>Instead, what shocked scientists was the unusual amount of material that lofted up, expanded, and fell back down over roughly half the surface area of the sun. The event's simultaneous launch of particles into space is called a coronal mass ejection.</p>

Biggest Solar Eruption?

A solar flare on June 7 unleashed a massive eruption on the sun (pictured)—perhaps the biggest ever recorded, scientists say. (Watch a video of the solar flare.)

The solar flare itself—an unusually bright spot on the sun—was only a "moderate" event. Space observatories in the past year recorded about 70 such solar flares, each roughly ten times weaker than "extreme" flares, of which only two have occurred since 2007.

(Related: "Biggest Solar Flare in Years—Auroras to Be Widespread Tonight?")

Instead, what shocked scientists was the unusual amount of material that lofted up, expanded, and fell back down over roughly half the surface area of the sun. The event's simultaneous launch of particles into space is called a coronal mass ejection.

Image courtesy SDO/NASA

Space Pictures This Week: Solar Flare, Green Aurora

The sun erupts, a green aurora glows, and a partial solar eclipse shines over Norway in this week's best space pictures.

Read This Next

The most ancient galaxies in the universe are coming into view
‘Microclots’ could help solve the long COVID puzzle
How Spain’s lust for gold doomed the Inca Empire

Go Further

Subscriber Exclusive Content

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet