Wednesday, December 17, 2014

NASA's Sun Watching Observatory Sees Mid-level Solar Flare on Dec. 16, 2014

NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory captured this image of a mid-level solar flare – as seen in the bright flash in the middle –on Dec. 16, 2014 shortly before midnight EST. Image Credit:  NASA/SDO. › View full disk image

The sun emitted a mid-level solar flare, peaking at 11:50 p.m. EST on Dec. 16, 2014. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, which watches the sun constantly, captured an image of the event. Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation. 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.

To see how this event may affect Earth, please visit NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center at, the U.S. government's official source for space weather forecasts, alerts, watches and warnings.

This flare is classified as an M8.7-class flare. M-class flares are a tenth the size of the most intense flares, the X-class flares. The number provides more information about its strength. An M2 is twice as intense as an M1, an M3 is three times as intense, etc.

Updates will be provided as needed.

What is a solar flare?

For answers to this and other space weather questions, please visit the Spaceweather Frequently Asked Questions page.

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Karen C. Fox
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland

Source:  Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) - NASA