The Sun unleashes an X5.4 class flare

By Phil Plait | March 6, 2012 9:15 pm

Around midnight UTC last night, Active Region 1429 on the Sun exploded with a fairly large flare: rated at class X5.4, it was among the largest seen in the current cycle.

Video of the flare has been created using images from the Solar Dynamics Observatory:

Yowza. This flare was big enough that it may cause some communication issues and will probably lead to some nice aurorae, but otherwise is no danger to us here on Earth. I haven’t heard much else, but I’ll update this as I do.

Tip o’ the SPF 5000 to Camilla Corona SDO.


Related Posts:

- NASA’s guide to solar flares
- Another big solar flare
- Awesome X2-class solar flare caught by SDO
- The Sun’s still blasting out flares… BIG ones

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy
MORE ABOUT: SDO, solar flare

Comments (13)

  1. David

    Does the Sun need some prozac?

  2. Wzrd1

    I’m on the space weather mailing list, old news now for me.
    Along with a CME and an edge effect of one tomorrow AND some interaction effects at the same time.
    Not that it’d knock out anything more important than a glowworm…
    But, SOME might get a good light show this week!

  3. John Paradox

    David Says:
    March 6th, 2012 at 9:36 pm

    Does the Sun need some prozac?

    Preparation H?

    J/P=?

  4. Pete UK

    The BBC screened a fairly good edition of their science vehicle Horizon yesterday – all about solar flares and CMEs, how they pose a threat to our electronics-based world and what we are starting to do to mitigate the risk. A tad sensationalist, but good for all that.

    Available on BBC iPlayer, for those who can access that content, at

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b01d99vb/Horizon_20112012_Solar_Storms_The_Threat_to_Planet_Earth/

    On a related subject, the first of another great documentary series from the Beeb which started last weekend:

    Orbit: Earth’s Extraodinary Journey.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b01d7kd5/Orbit_Earths_Extraordinary_Journey_Episode_1/

    This was excellent. Truly, our cup runneth over.

  5. Very cool stuff.

    Speaking of cool stuff in the solar system, Dr. Plait, could you discuss the “Hot Flow Anomaly”? I think that would be a terrific blog subject.

  6. Messier Tidy Upper

    @ ^ Larian LeQuella : I’m not sure that “cool” is right word here somehow! ;-)

    Is it just me or perhaps the angle we’re veiwing it from or did this flare seem set a quarter or so of our Sun quivering? Great clip. 8)

    Wonder if the helioseismologists noticed a sunquake as a result of this and if so what the solar Richter scale equivalent would be?

  7. Carey

    I love that little “after-burp” that pushes out from the sunspot at about a 5 o’clock angle after the main blast.

  8. Chris

    @5 Messier
    The satellite’s camera is shortening the exposure to keep the flare from being over exposed. This reduces the intensity of the rest of the sun producing the quivering I believe you are referring to.

  9. Hot off the presses (or at least the SWPC alerts mailing list):
    Space Weather Message Code: ALTPX3
    Serial Number: 25
    Issue Time: 2012 Mar 07 1417 UTC

    ALERT: Proton Event 10MeV Integral Flux exceeded 1000pfu
    Begin Time: 2012 Mar 07 1410 UTC
    NOAA Scale: S3 – Strong

    NOAA Space Weather Scale descriptions can be found at

    Potential Impacts: Radiation – Passengers and crew in high latitude, high altitude flights may experience increasing radiation exposures. Astronauts on EVA (extra-vehicular activity) are exposed to elevated radiation levels.
    Spacecraft – Single-event upsets to satellite operations, noise in imaging systems, and slight reduction of efficiency in solar panels are likely.
    Radio – Degraded or episodically blacked-out polar HF (high frequency) radio propagation.

  10. Mark

    It looks like the whole surface of the sun moves following the flare. Is this akin to an explosion followed by a concussion wave here on earth?

  11. Messier Tidy Upper

    @8. Chris wrote :

    @5 Messier – The satellite’s camera is shortening the exposure to keep the flare from being over exposed. This reduces the intensity of the rest of the sun producing the quivering I believe you are referring to.

    Ah, that makes sense – Thanks. :-)

  12. Jim Mooney

    There are some studies linking geomagnetic storms with negative physiological and psychological effects, so we’ll see if there are any artifacts of that, although adnittedly statistically anomalous, tomorrow.

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