Sun emits mid-level solar flare

Photo: SDO/NASA

Purple ball of plasma

A stunning photo of an M6.5 class flare — the strongest flare seen so far this year — is captured at 3:16 EDT on April 11 by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory. This image is a composite of light wavelengths at 131 and 171 Angstroms.

Although M-class flares are nowhere near as strong as X-class flares, which are about 10 times more powerful, they can still cause plenty of headaches by disturbing the atmosphere in the layer where GPS and communications signals travel. Radio signals hit by radiation can be disrupted for as long as the flare lasts, anywhere from minutes to hours.

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