Watch NASA's high-quality video of the solar flare
NASA unveiled a new video this week of a solar flare, an event that is normally outside the visible range for humans.
Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/SDO/Genna Duberstein
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High-definition and captivating, a new video of the April 17 solar flare has been released to the public.
NASA captured the stunning view of an eruption occurring on the surface of the sun through the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), which is tasked with continually monitoring the star. The recording of the mid-level flare was unveiled earlier this week and offers a unique, high-quality view of the solar event.
The SDO and the scientific team behind it had been closely observing the region where the flare occurred after it spotted a large sunspot five times the size of Earth.
"Scientists study such sunspots in order to better understand what causes them to sometimes erupt with solar flares," the space agency states in a press release.
Solar flares are enormous bursts of radiation originating from the sun, driven by magnetic fields below the surface that break and reconnect. The resulting blast can send radiation storms hurtling across space at speeds approaching the speed of light.
Most of the radiation occurs outside the visible spectrum. In order to view the flare, SDO captured footage (visible above) in "several wavelengths of extreme ultraviolet light," which would normally not be visible for humans, and color-coded them for viewing, according to NASA. It allows scientists and the public to see both the explosion and the radiation it released into space.
The flare was considered mid-level, classified as an M6.7. The M-class marks the flare as about 10 times smaller than the most intense flares, which are known as as X-class.
The resulting radiation from solar flares are extremely dangerous to humans, but the Earth's magnetic field protects the planet from radiation reaching the surface. If intense enough, the radiation can still interfere with GPS and communication signals in the atmosphere. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Space Weather Prediction Center did warn of an interruption of radio signals during the time of the flare.
On other planets, the radiation would cause much greater damage. Scientists have found that Mars lost oxygen atoms in its atmosphere 10 times faster than Earth during a previous solar flare, in part from having a weaker magnetic field to protect from solar wind and radiation, The Christian Science Monitor reported in 2012.
The most recent flare originated from a region of the sun known as Active Region 2529, a site of active magnetic activity. Several days prior to the sun flare, the area produced a large sunspot, a visible dark spot on the surface of the sun that is typically associated with solar flares.
The sunspot changed sizes and shape, and was expected to rotate out of Earth's view on April 20, according to NASA.