11/08/2011 11:55 am ET | Updated Jan 07, 2012

Coronal Mass Ejection And Solar Flare Occur Hours Apart (PHOTO, VIDEO)

The sun was on fire last week.

Sorry, we couldn't resist. But when it came to solar activity, the big shining star didn't let us down.

On Thursday, NASA recorded two separate instances of notable solar activity: a coronal mass ejection (CME) followed by an X-class solar flare. And lucky for us, we have evidence of both.

Solar Flare:

According to NASA, a solar flare is a huge explosion of radiation that produces a burst of light and energy. They're associated with sunspots, earth-sized dark areas of the sun that are cooler in temperature than other areas of the star.

The solar flare that occurred on Thursday was an X-class solar flare, the strongest type. It reportedly caused a disturbance to some radio equipment about 45 minutes after erupted. It happened at about 3:27 p.m. EDT.

The image was captured with NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO).

LOOK: NASA's SDO Captures an X-Class Flare:

Coronal Mass Ejection:

A coronal mass ejection, or CME, is a huge blast of solar wind made up of gas and magnetic fields. According to Discover Magazine's Bad Astronomer, they're sometimes associated with solar flares, but can also happen independently.


It takes several hours for the CME to detach itself from the sun, but once it does, it races away at speeds of up to 1,000 km (more than 7 million miles per hour). The cloud of hot plasma and charged particles may be up to a hundred billion kilograms (220 billion pounds) in size.

NASA caught the CME, the video of which is available above, at 8:45 p.m. EDT with one of its two Solar TErrestrial RElations Observatory (STEREO) spacecraft monitoring the sun.

In October, a comet hit the sun and, a few minutes later, a CME occurred on the other side. Despite the appearance in a video that the comet caused the explosion, scientists said that the two events were unrelated.

The Associated Press reports that over the next two weeks, an area of the sun that's particularly active with solar storms is going to be facing the Earth.

Video at top courtesy of NASA.