A tempest swirls during the beginning of a large solar eruption, one of the first of the new sunspot cycle, on August 1.
Pictures of a series of eruptions that day—made possible by a new satellite—revealed for the first time that outbursts covering the entire sun can be connected.
The ultraviolet image was captured by NASA's newest sun-observing satellite, the Solar Dynamics Observatory, which has been watching the sun nonstop since last spring.
(Related: "NASA Solar Observatory's First Shots.")
Though it started small, the eruption stunned scientists by quickly expanding to envelop much of the star. Scientists had previously known that intense solar activity could occur simultaneously on multiple sections of the sun, but the satellite's new capabilities have enabled researchers to see that these events aren't always coincidental. (See more pictures of solar eruptions.)
"We had to be sort of beaten over the head," Alan Title, a physics professor at Stanford University, said earlier this week at an annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco.
—Richard A. Lovett in San Francisco