NASA captures 'graceful eruption' from the sun

The sun unleashed a mid-level solar flare on April 2, an event that was captured on video by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory.

NASA/SDO/Goddard Space Flight Center
A mid-level flare, an M6.5, erupted from the sun on April 2, 2014, peaking at 10:05 a.m. EDT. This image from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory shows the flare in a blend of two wavelengths of extreme ultraviolet light: 131 Angstroms and 171 Angstroms, colorized in yellow and red, respectively.

NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory has snapped a spectacular video of a solar flare erupting from the sun.

The space agency classified the flare, which peaked on April 2 at 10:05 a.m. EDT, as an M6.5, making it a mid-level eruption.

M-class flares are a tenth as powerful than the most intense group of solar flares: X-class. The number after M indicates the strength of the flare. For example-- am M2 is twice as intense than an M1.

On its Facebook page, NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory described the powerful bursts of electromagnetic energy and radiation as a "graceful eruption."

Such bursts are observed when magnetic fields that emanate from deep inside the sun first rise into the solar atmosphere, then break and reconnect, discharging large amounts of electromagnetic radiation. 

But it is still not clear what causes them. "Solar flares are bursts of x-rays and light that stream out into space, but scientists don't yet know the fine details of what sets them off," according to NASA.

"Some people worry that a gigantic 'killer solar flare' could hurl enough energy to destroy Earth, but this is not actually possible," said NASA. The heat from the solar flare cannot reach Earth, but the electromagnetic radiation and high-energy particles can reach the planet, causing disruption of satellites, global positioning systems, and electrical power grids.

"The coronal mass ejection from this event is off the Sun-Earth line but analysis continues to see if any glancing blow can be expected," notes the Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC).

A huge solar flare on Jan. 8 prompted the commercial spaceflight company Orbital Sciences to reschedule the launch of its private cargo mission.

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