An incredibly powerful X4.9-class solar flare erupted from the Sun on February 24, 2014, peaking right around 7:49 pm EST, according to NASA. The Solar Dynamics Observatory captured a number of images and some footage of the event.
The solar flare is by far the strongest seen yet this year, and one of the strongest seen over the last few years. The flare wasn’t directed at the Earth though, so there aren’t expected to be any disruptions to electronics or power systems. The flare erupted from the sunspot referred to as AR1990.
For some perspective on how powerful this latest flare was — if the sunspot had been facing the Earth, there would very likely be disruptions to substantial numbers of satellite based systems, possibly disruptions to the power grid, and definitely dangers posed to the astronauts currently on the ISS.
NASA provides a bit of background:
Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation, appearing as giant flashes of light in the SDO images. Harmful radiation from a flare cannot pass through Earth’s atmosphere to physically affect humans on the ground, however — when intense enough — they can disturb the atmosphere in the layer where GPS and communications signals travel.
As well as potentially blowing-out and disrupting power grids. They are also responsible for the beautiful phenomenon known as the Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis. Large flares can bring the auroras at least as far south as the Deep South.
If you want to keep track of space weather NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center can help you out — with forecasts, alerts, watches and warnings.
Image Credit: SDO/NASA Goddard’s Scientific Visualization Studio