The outermost layer of the sun is constantly active with turbulence; creating pressure waves or quakes that ripple the surface of the sun; seemingly making the sun “breathe” by heaving the surface up and down in a pattern of peaks and troughs.

The Solar Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) has provided data recently showing these quakes that follow the wake of solar flares exploding above the surface of the sun.

The SOHO spacecraft shows scientists how the ripples move around the sun and provides information about the interior of the sun, helping us to understand what goes on there.

There is an unusual regularity to the “breathing” which is a class of vibrations, or oscillations, call the five-minute oscillations. Using SOHO to study these oscillations, scientists have discovered an unexpected correlation with solar flares, particularly the number of flares occurring.

Apparently as the number of flares increase, so does the strength of these five-minute oscillations. In other words, it seems the sun essentially “breathes” deeper and heavier with more solar flares occurring. Similarly on Earth after large earthquakes, the Earth vibrates with seismic waves. It is as if someone hit a church bell and after the loud initial ring, you would still hear the fading sound of the bell’s vibrations as it slowly stills quiet.

The image above was taken by the SOHO spacecraft on November 4, 2003. Shown is hot gas in the solar atmosphere in false color; the flare is the bright, white area on the right edge of the sun. The horizontal line showing through the flare is not real but a condition of the instrument’s detector becoming over saturated from the intense light.