NASA — New Photos Of Epic Solar Flare

NASA has released pictures and a video of the eruption of an epic solar flare.

Solar Flare

On Cinco de Mayo, the NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory was watching the sun and caught epic images of the sun releasing a category X-2.7 solar flare. NASA classifies solar flares with a letter according to its size and strength. From smallest to largest, the classifications are A, B, C, M, and X, with X being the largest. Within the letter classifications, there is also a number application between one through nine, but some have gone beyond that. The X-2.7 solar flare that NASA captured on May 5 was very impressive.

According to NASA, solar flares happen when enough magnetic energy in a star is built up in a solar atmosphere and then released in an eruption of high-energy radiation into space. The eruption, as evidenced by the NASA photos and video, is quite breathtaking. Through those images, it’s difficult for us on Earth to realize just how large the solar flares are, but NASA says that even small solar flares can be several times the size of our home planet.

NASA caught images of the Cinco de Mayo flare early Tuesday evening Eastern Time (6:11 p.m.). NASA said that the solar flare released enough high-energy radiation to disrupt both GPS and radio satellite transmissions in our atmosphere for a brief period of time.

The largest solar flare ever, according to NASA, was an X-28 (that’s not two-point-eight, but actually twenty-eight) that occurred on November 4, 2003. NASA analysts are calling the flare an X-28, but it was probably even larger. The instruments that NASA uses to analyze and classify the solar flares peaked out at X-28 before overloading. NASA says that the solar flare was one of the largest ever recorded.

When solar flares are positioned correctly and shoot out in the direction of the Earth, NASA says the flares can cause long lasting “radiation storms” that can damage not only satellites and communications, but also ground-based power grids and other technologies. NASA keeps a constant watch on the sun, monitoring it for solar flares so that it can do whatever is necessary to protect satellites, communications, and even astronauts from harm.

[Images via NASA Solar Dynamic Observatory]