Sun Unleashes Impressive Solar Flare
This snapshot from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory shows a stunning prominence associated with a Sept. 8, 2010 solar flare.
Credit: NASA/SDO

The sun has unleashed a massive solar eruption, but it's not expected to reach Earth, NASA scientists say.

The solar flare occurred Wednesday, when a huge wispy tendril erupted from the sun in what scientists call a solar prominence. [Amazing photo of the sun flare.]

The sun storm was a C3 class flare and erupted from a sunspot known as sunspot 1105.

"Just as sunspot 1105 was turning away from Earth on Sept. 8, the active region erupted, producing a solar flare and a fantastic prominence," NASA officials said in a Thursday statement.

Sunspots are temporary dark structures on the surface of the sun. They are caused by intense magnetic activity and sometimes erupt with energetic storms.

Class C3 solar flares are powerful, but not strong enough to do more than create bright auroras when they arrive at Earth.

But this flare, while impressive, was aimed away from our planet, NASA officials said.

"The eruption also hurled a bright coronal mass ejection into space," they added. "The eruption was not directed toward any planets."

Coronal mass ejections are huge eruptions of plasma and ionized atoms into space.

When aimed at Earth, the solar particles stream down the planet's magnetic field lines toward the poles. Severe solar flare events can cripple satellites and have the potential to knock out power grids on Earth.

The sun is currently entering an active period of its 11-year solar weather cycle after a lull in activity.