Recently, the sun released its largest flare in almost two decades, just after severe solar storms caused northern lights to appear in unusual places. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) stated that the sun is not done yet, suggesting more activity could occur. This flare is the biggest in the current 11-year solar cycle, which is nearing its peak. Fortunately, Earth should not be affected by this flare since it erupted from a part of the sun that is rotating away from the planet. The Solar Dynamics Observatory, a NASA mission, captured the bright flash of the flare, which was rated X8.7, the most powerful since 2005. Bryan Brasher from NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center in Colorado noted that the flare might be even stronger when scientists examine additional data.

In the days leading up to this flare, there was nearly a week of solar activity, including flares and coronal mass ejections, which posed risks of disrupting power and communications on Earth and in orbit. Brasher mentioned that the coronal mass ejection linked to the recent flare seemed to be directed away from Earth, but further analysis is ongoing. A geomagnetic storm over the weekend caused one of NASA’s environmental satellites to rotate unexpectedly due to reduced altitude from the space weather, putting it into a protective mode called safe mode. At the International Space Station, the seven astronauts were advised to stay in areas with strong radiation shielding, although NASA assured that the crew was never in any danger. This sequence of solar events highlights the importance of monitoring space weather and understanding its potential impacts on Earth and human activities in space.