This year’s most massive solar flare so far, with the equivalent energy of 100 megaton atomic bombs, was captured on video by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory on Wednesday.
A solar flare is a sudden bright flash observed over the Sun’s surface. They are often followed by a colossal coronal mass ejection (not always). The flare hurls clouds of ions, electrons and atoms through the Sun’s corona into space.
These clouds usually reach earth a couple of days after the event. Similar phenomena in other stars are called stellar flares.
The X2.2 solar flare on Wednesday was huge. NASA warns of disruptions to electricity grids and communications systems. (Image: NASA)
Solar flares are classified as A, B, C, M or X-class, with the X-class being the most powerful. The one filmed on Wednesday was an X-class solar flare. In fact, it was classified as an X2.2 flare (X2 is twice the size of X, X3 is 3 times that of X, etc.).
Geomagnetic storm warning
This latest solar flare was so powerful that scientists are warning of geomagnetic storms on Earth on Friday, which could trigger disruption to communication signals, electricity grids, and other electronic equipment.
The Space Weather Prediction Center has issued a G1 (Minor Geomagnetic Storm) watch for March 13th and 14th.
On Wednesday, the Solar Dynamic Observatory wrote:
“Active Region 12297 was the site of two M-class flares yesterday and an X2.1 starting today at 1611 UTC (12:11 p.m. ET). AR 12297 is in the southern hemisphere of the Sun. This movie in the AIA 304 Å shows about 90 minutes of time that includes the flare. Note the ribbon of material that lifts off the surface (see video below).”
NASA Video – X-Class Flare on March 11, 2015