NASA’s SDO Observes ‘Cinco de Mayo’ Solar Flare

NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory captured these images of a solar flare – as seen in the bright flash on the left – on May 5, 2015. Each image shows a different wavelength of extreme ultraviolet light that highlights a different temperature of material on the sun. By comparing different images, scientists can better understand the movement of solar matter and energy during a flare. From left to right, the wavelengths are: visible light, 171 angstroms, 304 angstroms, 193 angstroms and 131 angstroms. Each wavelength has been colorized. Image Credit: NASA/SDO/Wiessinger

NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory captured these images of a solar flare – as seen in the bright flash on the left – on May 5, 2015. Each image shows a different wavelength of extreme ultraviolet light that highlights a different temperature of material on the sun. By comparing different images, scientists can better understand the movement of solar matter and energy during a flare. From left to right, the wavelengths are: visible light, 171 angstroms, 304 angstroms, 193 angstroms and 131 angstroms. Each wavelength has been colorized. Image Credit: NASA/SDO/Wiessinger

May 6, 2015 – The sun emitted a significant solar flare, peaking at 4:11 p.m. MDT on May 5, 2015. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, which watches the sun constantly, captured an image of the event.

Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation. 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.

This flare is classified as an X2.7-class flare. X-class denotes the most intense flares, while the number provides more information about its strength. An X2 is twice as intense as an X1, an X3 is three times as intense, etc.

To see how this event may affect Earth, please visit NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center at http://spaceweather.gov, the U.S. government’s official source for space weather forecasts, alerts, watches and warnings.

SDO includes an instrument built in partnership with the University of Colorado at Boulder’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) and another built by Lockheed Martin Solar & Astrophysics Laboratory in Palo Alto, California.

Goddard Space Flight Center built, operates and manages the SDO spacecraft for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, D.C. SDO is the first mission of NASA’s Living with a Star Program. The program’s goal is to develop the scientific understanding necessary to address those aspects of the sun-Earth system that directly affect our lives and society.