Solar flares are fairly common and most of them are not strong enough to cause any problems on earth. Every now and then, a strong solar flare will occur and cause issues with cell phone receptions and even satellites.
An X1-class flare erupted from the now decaying sunspot AR2017 at 1:48 p.m. EDT on Saturday and was strong enough to be seen by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory. The sun spot that released the flare is decaying quickly, but scientists say that it could continue to spark solar flares over the next few days.
"Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation," Karen Fox of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center wrote in a statement. "Harmful radiation from a flare cannot pass through Earth's atmosphere to physically affect humans on the ground, however -- when intense enough -- they can disturb the atmosphere in the layer where GPS and communications signals travel."
Scientists believe that the large solar flares could trigger a minor geomagnetic storm on April 2. The flares may also cause the Northern Lights to become stronger.
Although most people were not even aware that a solar flare was taking place, it did have some effects on earth.
"The explosion above sunspot AR2017 sent shock waves racing through the sun's atmosphere at speeds as high as 4800 km/s (11 million mph)," astronomer Tony Phillips said. "Radio emissions stimulated by those shocks crossed the 93 million mile divide to Earth, causing shortwave radio receivers to roar with static."
The sun is currently in an active phase of its 11-year solar cycle, which means solar flares are more likely to occur. Several other large solar flares have been noticed in 2014, including one in January and another in February. As long as the sun is in an active phase, it could continue to release solar flares.
If you want to see what a solar flare looks like, check out this video captured by NASA.
Image via Wikimedia Commons