Sun Unleashes 2 Major Solar Flares Back-to-Back (Video)

A massive X2.2 solar flare erupts off the left limb of the sun in this view captured by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory on June 10, 2014, at 7:41 a.m. EDT.
A massive X2.2 solar flare erupts off the left limb of the sun in this view captured by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory on June 10, 2014, at 7:41 a.m. EDT. (Image credit: NASA/SDO/Goddard/Wiessinger)

Update: The sun fired off a third X-class solar flare on Wednesday (June 11). For the latest story, read: Sun Erupts with 3rd Huge Solar Flare in 2 Days: Video

The sun unleashed two major solar flares early Tuesday (June 10) in amazing back-to-back storms from our nearest star.

The first flare, a powerful X2.2-class solar flare, hit its maximum at about 7:42 a.m. EDT (1142 GMT). The second powerful X1.5-class flare, followed quickly behind, blasting out from the sun at 8:36 a.m. EDT (1236 GMT). Both flares could cause radio communication blackouts on Earth for about an hour, according to an alert from the U.S. Space Weather Prediction Center in Boulder, Colorado. NASA's sun-observing Solar Dynamics Observatory captured a video of the flares from space.

"Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation," Karen Fox, of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center said in a statement. "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." [The Biggest Solar Flares of 2014 (Photos)]

Officials with the prediction center do not think there will be a coronal mass ejection — a burst of plasma sent out from the sun — associated with the first flare, but they will continue to analyze the data they collected on the flares.

"Area of impact consists of large portions of the sunlit side of Earth, strongest at the sub-solar point," SWPC officials wrote in an alert about the X2.2 flare. Both flares emanated from the sun's Region 2087, close to the southeastern limb of the solar disk.

X-class flares are the most powerful kinds of solar flares produced by the sun. The star also produces M-class flares that can produce amazing aurora shows in the northern latitudes, and it can also erupt with weaker, C-class flares.

NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory and other probes like the agency's twin STEREO probes and joint U.S.-European SOHO spacecraft keep close tabs on the sun from space. When aimed at Earth, the powerful solar flares can cause problems with the planet's power grids and even endanger astronauts and satellites in space.

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Miriam Kramer
Staff Writer

Miriam Kramer joined as a Staff Writer in December 2012. Since then, she has floated in weightlessness on a zero-gravity flight, felt the pull of 4-Gs in a trainer aircraft and watched rockets soar into space from Florida and Virginia. She also served as's lead space entertainment reporter, and enjoys all aspects of space news, astronomy and commercial spaceflight.  Miriam has also presented space stories during live interviews with Fox News and other TV and radio outlets. She originally hails from Knoxville, Tennessee where she and her family would take trips to dark spots on the outskirts of town to watch meteor showers every year. She loves to travel and one day hopes to see the northern lights in person. Miriam is currently a space reporter with Axios, writing the Axios Space newsletter. You can follow Miriam on Twitter.