NASA captures footage of enormous solar flare

A new video shows a burst of light leaping off the sun that is so massive the space agency gives it an X-class rating, which denotes the most intense of all flares.

An X-class solar flare erupted on the left side of the sun on February 24, 2014. NASA/SDO

While solar flares are a common occurrence on the sun, it's not everyday that we get an X-class flare.

However, sun watchers were given a treat this week when the star let off a huge solar flare, according to NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory. The flare peaked around 5 p.m. PT on Monday and NASA published a video (see below) of the event on Tuesday.

Solar flares are bursts of radiation propelled off the sun. This latest flare was classified as X4.9, which means it was an incredibly significant burst of light and one of the largest of the solar cycle.

"X-class denotes the most intense flares, while the number provides more information about its strength," NASA wrote in a blog post. "An X2 is twice as intense as an X1, an X3 is three times as intense, etc."

Typically, flares don't affect Earth, but when they do, they often create beautiful aurora borealis, or northern lights -- like those seen last month. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), this week's flare was "well off the Sun-Earth line" and probably won't affect our planet.

However, it's possible that minor geomagnetic or solar radiation storms will cause some northern lights on Thursday. Additionally, NOAA writes, "this region will continue to rotate into a better position to affect Earth over the next week or so."

About the author

Dara Kerr is a staff reporter for CNET focused on the sharing economy and tech culture. She grew up in Colorado where she developed an affinity for collecting fool's gold and spirit animals.


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