A new video released by NASA has once again proven that solar flares are some of the most stunning and beautiful phenomenon in the universe. The agency also said that the flare may affect the Earth's atmosphere.
Solar flares are characterized by a sudden brightening of the Solar Surface. These powerful bursts of energy are sometimes followed by very large coronal mass ejections (CME), which can often produce stunning displays of stellar fireworks. This type of phenomenon involves all of the individual layers of the Sun's atmosphere including the corona, the chromosphere and the photosphere.
The latest class M6.5 flare occurred last April 2 and the solar flare peaked at around 10:05 a.m. (EDT). An M6.5 class flare is considered as a mid-level solar flare, which is still a far cry from Class X flares. However, the latest flare still makes for a stunning sight. The video footage of the flare was taken by the Solar Dynamics Observatory, a NASA space craft that was launched in 2010.
"This flare is classified as an M6.5 flare. M-class flares are ten times less powerful than the most intense flares, which are labeled X-class," says NASA. "The number after the M provides more information about its strength. An M2 is twice as intense as an M1, an M3 is three times as intense, etc."
Solar flares are essentially massive bursts of energy. Scientists estimate that solar flares can release up to 6 x 1025 joules, which is equivalent to around 160 billion megatons of TNT. These energetic bursts of radiation travel through the solar system at blinding speeds and can reach the Earth in around a day or two. While this amount of radiation could devastate the Earth's surface, the planet is protected by its very magnetic field. However, strong solar flares are known to disrupt the planet's ionosphere, which can affect GPS systems, long range radio communications as well as other devices that operation on certain frequencies.
"To see how this event may impact Earth, please visit NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center at http://spaceweather.gov, the U.S. government's official source for space weather forecasts, alerts, watches and warnings," NASA adds.
Last March, NASA also spotted a class M9.3 solar flare, which is considered very close to being classified as an X class flare. An even more powerful solar flare occurred last February. This solar flare was classified as an X4.9 flare and it is currently considered as the strongest flare so far this year. Fortunately, the X4.9 flare was not considered as "Earth-directed" and the planet was able to escape the effects of a geomagnetic storm that would have resulted from an Earth-directed X class flare.