Solar Blast! Sun Surprises with 3 Powerful Flares (Video)

A powerful M5.8 solar flare erupts from an active sunspot region on the sun (far right) in this close-up from an image captured by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory on April 3, 2017.
A powerful M5.8 solar flare erupts from an active sunspot region on the sun (far right) in this close-up from an image captured by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory on April 3, 2017. (Image credit: NASA/SDO)

The sun has unleashed three intense solar flares in just two days — each one stronger than the last — in an unexpected uptick in solar activity.

The flares began on Sunday (April 2), when the sun fired off a moderate, M5.3-class solar flare. A stronger, M5.7 solar flare followed later that same day. Then, today (April 3), the sun erupted with an M5.8 flare. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory spacecraft captured video of the flares as they occurred.

Monday's eruption marked the strongest solar flare of 2017, according to the space weather-tracking website

"M-class flares are a tenth the size of the most intense flares, the X-class flares," NASA officials wrote in a statement. In addition to M- and- X-class flares, the sun can also release smaller, C-class flares and weaker solar storms.

Officials with Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said this week's solar flares originated from the sunspot region known as Active Region 2644. This sunspot group is near the western limb (or edge of the sun as seen from Earth) and should take two days to fully rotate out of view, SWPC officials wrote in an update.

The uptick in solar activity comes amid a relatively quiescent phase of the sun's weather cycle, according to NASA. In late March, NASA images showed no sunspots on the star, suggesting that the sun was approaching the minimum-activity phase of its solar weather cycle, agency officials added.

NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory captured this ultraviolet wavelength view of the M5.8 solar flare peaking at 10:29 a.m. EDT on April 3, 2017. (Image credit: NASA/SDO)

 "Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation," NASA officials wrote in their statement. "Harmful radiation from a flare cannot pass through Earth's atmosphere to physically affect humans on the ground. However — when intense enough — they [flares] can disturb the atmosphere in the layer where GPS and communications signals travel."

According to, the three solar flares have triggered at least four significant shortwave radio blackouts.

"People who might have noticed these blackouts include ham radio operators and mariners using low-frequency rigs for communication at frequencies below 10 MHz," the website reported.

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Tariq Malik

Tariq is the Editor-in-Chief of and joined the team in 2001, first as an intern and staff writer, and later as an editor. He covers human spaceflight, exploration and space science, as well as skywatching and entertainment. He became's Managing Editor in 2009 and Editor-in-Chief in 2019. Before joining, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times covering education and city beats in La Habra, Fullerton and Huntington Beach. In October 2022, Tariq received the Harry Kolcum Award for excellence in space reporting from the National Space Club Florida Committee. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. You can find Tariq at and as the co-host to the This Week In Space podcast with space historian Rod Pyle on the TWiT network. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Twitter @tariqjmalik.