X-class Flare

This combined image shows the X-class flare from the right side of the sun, as seen through the eyes of different observatories. Was the best-observed flare of all time.

Images © NASA

The flare was witnessed on March 29, 2014 by four different NASA spacecraft and one ground-based observatory – three of which had been fortuitously focused in on the correct spot as programmed into their viewing schedule a full day in advance.

SDO is on the bottom/left, which helps show the position of the flare on the sun. The darker orange square is IRIS data. The red rectangular inset is from Sacramento Peak. The violet spots show the flare’s footpoints from RHESSI.

Jonathan Cirtain, project scientist for Hinode at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala, said:

“This is the most comprehensive data set ever collected by NASA’s Heliophysics Systems Observatory. Some of the spacecraft observe the whole sun all the time, but three of the observatories had coordinated in advance to focus on a specific active region of the sun. We need at least a day to program in observation time and the target – so it was extremely fortunate that we caught this X-class flare.”

X-class Flare 2

To have a record of such an intense flare from so many observatories is unprecedented.  Such research can help scientists better understand what catalyst sets off these large explosions on the sun. Perhaps we may even some day be able to predict their onset and forewarn of the radio blackouts solar flares can cause near Earth – blackouts that can interfere with airplane, ship and military communications.

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