The sun emitted a significant solar flare, on Feb. 24, 2014, peaking at 7:49 p.m. EST. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), captured images of the event, in different wavelengths of light. Image © NASA/SDO
These images from SDO, which keeps a constant watch on the sun, show the first moments of this X-class flare in different wavelengths of light — seen as the bright spot that appears on the left limb of the sun. Hot solar material can be seen hovering above the active region in the sun’s atmosphere, the corona.
Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation, appearing as giant flashes of light in the SDO images. Harmful radiation from a flare cannot pass through Earth’s atmosphere to physically affect humans on the ground, however — when intense enough — they can disturb the atmosphere in the layer where GPS and communications signals travel.