NASA reports that the sun emitted a mid-level solar flare on Thursday (May 8, 2014), peaking at 10:07 UTC (6:07 a.m. EDT). NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, captured the image above. This flare is classified as an M5.2-class flare. M-flares are about one-tenth as strong as the most intense flares, called X-flares.
Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation. Harmful radiation from a flare cannot pass through Earth’s atmosphere to physically affect humans on the ground. However, particularly strong solar flares that occur at such a time when their effects are aimed in our direction can disturb Earth’s atmosphere. These effects from solar storms affect the layer of our atmosphere where GPS and communications signals travel.
Deborah Byrd created the EarthSky radio series in 1991 and EarthSky.org in 1994. Today, she serves as Editor-in-Chief of this website. She has won a galaxy of awards from the broadcasting and science communities, including having an asteroid named 3505 Byrd in her honor. A science communicator and educator since 1976, Byrd believes in science as a force for good in the world and a vital tool for the 21st century. "Being an EarthSky editor is like hosting a big global party for cool nature-lovers," she says.