Twisted magnetic fields on the Sun suddenly released on Monday, causing a massive flare of radiation that hurled a giant loop of plasma many times larger than the Earth out into space. This x-class flare was observed by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory satellite. The video above shows SDO's view in different wavelengths of light. X-class solar flares are the biggest. This one was the strongest one yet observed this year, and one of the biggest during the current solar cycle. Here are six still images showing the start of the event in different wavelengths:
These images from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory at 7:25 p.m. EST on Feb. 24, 2014, show the first moments of an X-class flare in different wavelengths of light – seen as the bright spot that appears on the left limb of the sun. Hot solar material hovers above the active region in the sun's atmosphere, the corona.Credit: NASA/SDO And here's a closeup showing the sun in ultraviolet light at the time of the flare:
The X-class solar flare erupted on the left side of the sun. This composite image, captured at 7:45 p.m. EST on Feb. 24, shows the sun in ultraviolet light with wavelengths of both 131 and 171 Angstroms. (Source: NASA Goddard Spaceflight Center) Pretty impressive! And if the huge blast of material from the sun's atmosphere, called a coronal mass ejection, that resulted from this event were to be heading our way, satellites, radio communications, and electrical grids would be at risk. Luckily, that's not the case, according to NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center:
Although impressive, the source of this event is well off the Sun-Earth line and the coronal mass ejection (CME) associated with this event is not headed directly at Earth. Analysis continues to determine what, if any, geomagnetic impact this will have.