Even a molten ball of gas has its moments of elegance.
Last week, NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory caught a solar flare on video, and the agency's description of the sun's swirling eruption as "graceful" isn't hyperbole. Scientists will study this tape to gain insight on what leads to solar flares, a phenomenon not entirely understood.
What is known is this: As the Los Angeles Times reports, solar flares are categorized according to strength, with each letter class 10 times stronger than the previous. This solar flare was an M6.5; according to NASA, such mid-level flares "can cause brief radio blackouts at the poles and minor radiation storms that might endanger astronauts."
The flares to worry about are X-class, the most intense of all. When an X-class flare erupts, it sends a tremendous amount of charged particles hurtling out into space. This can damage communication systems, power grids, satellites, and more. But for now, enjoy the beauty of one of the sun's calmer dances. --Catherine Garcia