Recently, the sun emitted its largest flare in nearly twenty years, following intense solar storms that caused the northern lights to be seen in unusual locations. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported that this flare is the largest in the current 11-year solar cycle, which is approaching its peak. The Solar Dynamics Observatory, a NASA mission, captured this bright flare, which was rated X8.7—the most powerful since 2005. Bryan Brasher from NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center in Colorado mentioned that further analysis might reveal an even stronger intensity. Fortunately, Earth should not be impacted by this flare because it erupted from a part of the sun that is turning away from the planet.

In the days leading up to the event, nearly a week of solar activity, including flares and coronal mass ejections, posed risks to power and communications on Earth and in orbit. Brasher indicated the recent coronal mass ejection seemed directed away from Earth, pending further analysis. Over the weekend, a geomagnetic storm caused a NASA satellite to rotate unexpectedly, entering safe mode due to the reduced altitude from the space weather. At the International Space Station, astronauts were advised to stay in areas with strong radiation shielding, though NASA confirmed they were never in danger. These solar events highlight the importance of monitoring space weather and understanding its potential impacts on Earth and human activities in space.