The folks over at NASA are constantly watching the sun for many different reasons. One of those reasons is to capture video and images of the sun doing it thing. On September 6, 2017 the Sun tossed out the first of two incredibly powerful solar flares with the first flare peaking at 5:10 a.m. EDT and the second, and larger, solar flare peaking at 8:02 a.m. EDT. The Solar Dynamic Observatory captured images of both massive solar flares.
NASA says that while solar flares are massive bursts of powerful radiation, the radiation from that flare can’t pass through the atmosphere here on Earth. That means that while no health threat was posed to people on the ground, the solar radiation is able to penetrate to the distance where GPS and communication signals travel.
That means that while the solar radiation won’t kill people, it can mess with human communication and your GPS device. The first solar flare was classified X2.2 with the second X9.3. NASA notes that the X-class is the most intense type of flare and the number gives detail on how strong the flare was. Each number you move up the scale signifies twice the intensity. That means an X2 is twice as intense as an X1 and so on.
Both of the solar flares erupted from the same active region of the sun, a region NASA calls AR 2673. The X9.3 flare is the largest flare recorded so far in the 11-year solar cycle. The current solar cycle started in December 2008 and is currently moving towards the solar minimum.
NASA also notes that the radio blackout from the flare has passed. It’s hard to understand how much larger the sun is than the Earth. The solar flare activity was many times the size of the Earth. The embedded tweet above uses an Earth-scale to show the size of the flares.