Solar flares are a normal and expected occurrence on the Sun, and thanks to a new photo from NASA, the organization captured one in its full beauty. At the center of our Solar System lies the Sun. The 4.6 billion-year-old ball of hot plasma is noteworthy for a few different reasons. Not only is it a massive and powerful source of heat, but it’s also a critical component of life on Earth. Without the Sun and Earth’s perfect orbit around it, life as we know it wouldn’t exist.
While that aspect of the Sun is well-known, another important characteristic is its solar flares. This is when the Sun blasts out a sudden burst of energy and radiation from its surface. They happen anywhere from once per week to multiple times per day depending on the solar cycle, with each flare varying in intensity. Sometimes, flares are so insignificant that they happen without most people realizing it. Other times, flares become so powerful that they interfere with daily life on Earth.
On October 28, 2021, NASA recorded a particularly stunning solar flare from the Solar Dynamics Observatory. The flare reached its peak at 11:35 AM EDT, and as seen in the photo above, it’s beyond impressive to look at. The flare can be spotted towards the lower-middle of the Sun’s surface, indicated by the bright flash of ultraviolet light. The Solar Dynamics Observatory is constantly watching the Sun for events such as this. No matter what’s happening on the Sun, NASA’s always in the know thanks to the Observatory.
If the flare in the picture looks massive, that’s because it is. NASA classified this flare as an X1 entity. Of the five primary solar flare classes, X represents the most intense ones (sitting above M, C, B, and A). The 1 indicator means it’s on the lower-end of X-class flares, with X2 being twice as large as X1 and X10 being “unusually intense.” Even so, this still represents the most significant type of flare that we see on the Sun.
Like the flare that occurred earlier this month, this latest X1 beast also had a temporary impact on Earth-bound communication. The National Oceanic And Atmospheric Administration reported an R3 event (aka a ‘strong radio blackout’) primarily in South America around 17:29 UTC on the 28th. It’s also expected that lingering particles from the flare could visit the Earth on October 30 or October 31, resulting in a spooky cosmic treat for the Halloween weekend.