Nasa has caught sight of an explosion more than 100 million km from Earth.
The explosion was a solar flare â€” a powerful burst of energy on the sunâ€” that was caught by Nasaâ€™s sun-observing Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) on January 20.
Nasaâ€™s Solar Dynamics Observatory watches the sun constantly and captured an image of the event. The images show the solar flare as a bright flash on the right side of the sun.
Solar flares and eruptions can impact radio communications, electric power grids and navigation signals on Earth. They can also pose risks to spacecraft and astronauts.
This flare is classified as an M5.5 class flare, by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administrationâ€™s (NOAA) â€˜space weather scaleâ€™, which is considered to be of moderate strength.
Solar flares like this are essentially a massive release of electromagnetic radiation. When an outburst occurs, that radiation spreads out across our solar system at the speed of light. If itâ€™s powerful enough, the burst of energy can directly influence radio waves, electronics, and other Earth-based technologies.
This particular flare had the potential to black out high-frequency radio communications â€˜for tens of minutesâ€™ on Earthâ€™s sunlit side. The blackouts were supposed to affect high-frequency communication, primarily impacting the 3 to 30 MHz band.Â However, solar flares do not affect smartphone GPS systems or most modern navigational technology for that matter.
Solar flares usually take place in areas on the sun marked by the presence of strong magnetic fields called active regions. As these magnetic fields evolve, they can reach a point of instability and release energy in a variety of forms including electromagnetic radiation, which are observed as solar flares.
The NOAAâ€™s Space Weather Prediction Center is the US governmentâ€™s official source for space weather forecasts, watches, warnings, and alerts.
Nasa works as a research arm of the nationâ€™sÂ space weatherÂ effort by observing the sun and our space environment constantly with a fleet of spacecraft that study everything from the sunâ€™s activity to the solar atmosphere and magnetic fields in the space surrounding Earth.