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See the sun flaring thanks to the Solar Dynamics Observatory

This week, the Sun erupted with a powerful solar flare, and the incident was caught in real-time by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory. NASA has shared remarkable footage of the event, which took place on January 20, peaking at 1:01 a.m. ET.

“Solar flares are powerful bursts of energy,” NASA writes. “Flares and solar eruptions can impact radio communications, electric power grids, navigation signals, and pose risks to spacecraft and astronauts.”

A solar flare – as seen in the bright flash on the right side of this image of the Sun – on January 20.
NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory captured this image of a solar flare – as seen in the bright flash on the right side of this image of the Sun – on January 20. The image from SDO’s Atmospheric Imaging Assembly 131 Ångström channel (colorized in teal) shows a subset of extreme ultraviolet light that highlights the extremely hot material in flares. Credits: NASA/SDO
The Solar Dynamics Observatory constantly observes this sun, waiting to capture moments like this and seeing how the star changes over time. The image is colorized into this blue shade to better show off the flare event, with the blue representing the extreme ultraviolet light given off by the Sun due to its heat. As well as the whole-Sun image above, NASA also released a close-up clip which shows the flaring region in more detail:

The flaring region of the sun during a solar flare.
A zoom in on the flaring region. Credits: NASA/SDO
This was classified as a M5.5 solar flare, making it one of the more intense types of flare to have been spotted. According to the Space Weather Prediction Center, there are five levels to measure solar flare intensity, each designated by a letter. The lowest is the A level, followed by B, C, M, and X flares, with each level giving off X-rays ten times more powerful than the level below. As an M flare, this event was on the stronger end of the scale, though not quite as dramatic as the X-1 class flare observed in October last year.

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Georgina Torbet
Georgina is the Digital Trends space writer, covering human space exploration, planetary science, and cosmology. She…
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