NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) witnessed the sun emit a mid-level solar flare that peaked at 8:29 pm EDT on April 17, 2016. It temporarily disrupted radio communications here on Earth.
The flare eruption was from a giant sunspot known as active region (AR) 2529, which is presently large enough to fit almost five Earths inside, and was visible from the ground without magnification.
The event was captured by SDO — which is constantly watching the sun. Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation; however the harmful radiation cannot pass through Earth’s atmosphere to physically affect humans on the ground.
But the powerful bursts can, and on this occasion did, cause moderate radio blackouts in some areas. According to officials with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Weather Prediction Center, all blackouts have since been restored.
A flare eruption intense enough can disturb the atmosphere within the layer where GPS and communications signals travel. According to NASA:
“NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center states that “moderate radio blackouts were observed” during the peak of the flare. Such radio blackouts are only ongoing during the course of a flare, and so they have since subsided.
“NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center is the U.S. government’s official source for space weather forecasts, watches, warnings and alerts.”
This recent flare was classified as an M6.7 on the three-tiered classification scale that scientists use. The system includes C flares which are the weakest, M flares are medium-strength, and X flares are the most powerful.
X flares are 10 times more potent than M flares, which, in turn, are 10 times stronger than C eruptions. (And an M6 flare is six times more intense than an M1 event), according to space.com.
Active Region 2529 is an area of complex magnetic activity on the sun, and has had a large dark spot called a sunspot over the last several days. NASA officials wrote in a description of the new flare video:
“This sunspot has changed shape and size as it slowly made its way across the sun’s face over the past week and [a] half. For much of that time, it was big enough to be visible from the ground without magnification.
“This sunspot will rotate out of our view over the right side of the sun by April 20, 2016.”
Learn more about Solar storms from SpaceRip: