Home Science Space A Massive Sunspot Fires Off a Powerful Flare

A Massive Sunspot Fires Off a Powerful Flare

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.

SDO view of a solar flare, April 17, 2016
NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory captured this imagery of a solar flare – as seen in the bright flash – around 8:30 p.m. EDT on April 17, 2016. A loop of solar material can also be seen rising up off the right limb of the sun. (Image: NASA/SDO/Goddard)

A flare eruption intense enough can disturb the atmosphere within the layer where GPS and communications signals travel. According to NASA:

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.

A black spot on the sun is visible in the upper right of this image captured by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory. Such spots are evidence that this is an area of complex magnetic activity on the sun, which can sometimes lead to solar eruptions sending light and radiation out into space. This region produced a solar flare at 8:29 p.m. EDT on April 17, 2016. (Image: NASA/SDO/Goddard)
A black spot on the sun is visible in the upper right of this image. Such spots are evidence that this is an area of complex magnetic activity on the sun, which can sometimes lead to solar eruptions sending light and radiation out into space. This region produced a solar flare at 8:29 p.m. EDT on April 17, 2016.
(Image: NASA/SDO/Goddard)

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:

Learn more about Solar storms from SpaceRip:

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Troy Oakes
Troy was born and raised in Australia and has always wanted to know why and how things work, which led him to his love for science. He is a professional photographer and enjoys taking pictures of Australia's beautiful landscapes. He is also a professional storm chaser where he currently lives in Hervey Bay, Australia.

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