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Mid-sized flare imaged by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory

When flares are intense enough, their ejected radiation can reach Earth and disrupt power grids and communications satellites.

By Brooks Hays
Mid-sized flare imaged by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory
NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory spots a mid-class flare, pictured in the lower right hand corner. Photo by NASA/SDO

WASHINGTON, Sept. 28 (UPI) -- On Monday, NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory captured an image of a mid-class solar flare.

The moderate eruption is unlikely to cause space weather strong enough to affect Earth, but scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Space Weather Prediction Center will nonetheless monitor the after-effects of the flare.

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Solar flares are the eruptions of the sun's plasma that send electrons, ions, and atoms out from the sun's surface, through its atmosphere and into space. The eruptions emit radiation across the entirety of the electromagnetic spectrum. They are the sudden releases of magnetic energy stored in the sun's corona.

When flares are intense enough, their ejected radiation can reach Earth and disrupt power grids and communications satellites.

It's unlikely today's flare will be felt on Earth. The flare was classified as a mid-class flare, registering specifically as an M7.6 flare.

Mid-class flares are a tenth as powerful as the strongest X-class flares. Numbers denote the flare's strength relative to other flares in its class. An M-2 flare is twice as strong as an M-1 flare, while an M-7.6 flare is 7.6 times more intense.

The Solar Dynamics Observatory was launched in 2010 to help scientists better understand the sun's electromagnetic patterns and how these patterns influence space weather and Earth.

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