A NASA satellite charged with staring at the sun captured an incredible view of a powerful solar flare on Thursday (Oct. 2).
The space agency's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) caught sight of the flare as it erupted from an active region on the right side of the sun, according to NASA. The spacecraft' spectacular videos of the solar flare, as well as still images, show the sun storm erupting from the sunspot AR2172-AR2173.
The flare reached its peak at 3:01 p.m. EDT (1901 GMT) on Tuesday. While the M7.3-class flare did cause a coronal mass ejection — an explosion of super-hot solar plasma — the eruption was not directed at Earth, and should not pose a concenr for satellites in orbit or the planet as a whole, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Space Weather Prediction Office. [See amazing pictures of 2014's solar flares]
M-class flares are about one-tenth as powerful as the strongest solar flares, which are known as X-class flares.
"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," NASA Goddard Space Flight Center spokeswoman Karen Fox wrote in a statement.
The sun has unleashed a series of X-class flares this year. In early September, the star fired off two large flares in rapid succession.
Those solar storms — which were pointed toward Earth — created some amazing aurora displays. Powerful solar tempests can supercharge Earth's auroras, causing curtains of green light to dance in the skies of the high northern and southern latitudes.
The northern lights are created when charged particles from the sun interact with Earth's upper atmosphere, bombarding neutral particles and creating the lights of the auroras.
NASA's SDO is part of a fleet of satellites that monitors the sun. The agency's twin STEREO probes and the SOHO spacecraft (a joint venture between NASA and the European Space Agency) also keep track of the sun's weather.
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Miriam Kramer joined Space.com 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 Space.com'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.