NASA Watches Solar Flare From Solar Observatory Spacecraft [VIDEO]

By Ben Wolford on April 7, 2014 3:46 PM EDT

NASA recently released this image of an April 2 solar flare, taken by the Solar Dynamics Observatory. (Photo: NASA/SDO/Goddard Space Flight Center)
NASA recently released this image of an April 2 solar flare, taken by the Solar Dynamics Observatory. (Photo: NASA/SDO/Goddard Space Flight Center)

The sun recently belched a solar flare, and NASA released a photo and video of the enormous burst of radiation being thrown into space. The footage was captured by the Solar Dynamics Observatory on April 2, when the solar flare erupted around 10 a.m., New York time. Solar flares have been known to knock out GPS and radio signals, but this one, classified around the middle of the power spectrum, wasn't believed to have caused much trouble.

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It did produce a stunning video, however. The cloud of radiation is multiple times the size of the Earth, and they're typically around 36 million degrees Fahrenheit. Solar flares are comprised of electromagnetic waves across the entire spectrum — from radio waves to visible light to powerful X-rays and gamma rays — and are caused by a sudden build-up of magnetic energy in the sun's atmosphere.

Sometimes these flares shoot straight for Earth, but luckily the planet has a magnetic defense mechanism. "Harmful radiation from a flare cannot pass through Earth's atmosphere to physically affect humans on the ground," NASA says. "However — when intense enough — they can disturb the atmosphere in the layer where GPS and communications signals travel." According to NASA's space weather alerts for the last few days, there may have been some radio static and momentary blackouts on some parts of the planet at certain frequencies.

NASA said the April 2 flare was classified as M6.5. M-class flares are about 10 times less powerful than the most powerful solar flares, which are categorized as X-class. Scientists are trying to learn more about what causes this kind of volatility on the surface of the sun, and so they've launched a spacecraft called the Solar Dynamics Observatory into solar orbit similar to Earth's to watch our host star in action. If you go to the Observatory's website, you can see an up-to-date image of the sun.

On Friday, NASA released a video of the M6.5 solar flare on YouTube. Check it out:

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