Screen shot 2012 10 16 at 12.09.08 PM 620x415 Massive solar flare erupts from sun

A large solar flare has burst forth from the sun, showcasing the awesome scale in the universe.

A gigantic solar flare, 100,000 miles across, has erupted from the sun, showcasing how truly great the scale of things can be in the universe. In comparison, the Earth only has a diameter of roughly 7926 miles.

Screen shot 2012 10 16 at 12.07.39 PM 620x436 Massive solar flare erupts from sun

An image of the solar flare. Earth would fit more than ten times along the length of the flare.

Solar flares are a massive energy release of the sun, sometimes up to a sixth of the sun's total energy output, or 160,000,000,000 megatons of TNT, which can be seen as a sudden brightening in the sun and is often followed by a coronal mass ejection (CME), essentially a burst of solar material being flung out into the solar system.

These CMEs usually reach earth about one or two days later, and it is the earth's interaction with these ionized particles which, together with regular solar winds, are the cause of auroras. If a solar flare is powerful enough though, they may cause damage, disturbing power grids and radio systems. A particularly disastrous solar flare may even permanently disable many electronic components, such as transformers, leading to widespread power outages.

Solar flares affect the entire solar system though; one hazard that would be encountered during a manned missions to Mars for example, would be the radiation emitted from solar winds, which the astronauts would somehow have to shield against during the entire flight.