An extremely active part of the sun, which is known as Active Region 2242, emitted a massive solar flare late on Friday afternoon (19 December) and this was captured by NASA.
This is the most sensitive image of the star that NASA has ever taken. Usually NASA's NuSTAR (Nuclear Spectroscpic Telescope Array) looks at black holes and other objects placed far away in the solar system. But, this time, the telescope has successfully captured an image of the sun's high-energy X-ray flashes.
Since NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory noticed the gigantic solar flare, it has kept a close and constant watch on it.
The flare was so strong that it caused power outages in various parts of the Earth such as the South Pacific and Australia.
A solar flare is a massive energy release that can be as powerful as 160 trillion megatons of TNT. To be more specific, the Hiroshima bomb was three megatons so one can imagine what 160 trillion megatons can be like.
Experts are of the opinion that given the activity in the region, more sun storms are likely to occur; however, not necessarily in the same spot. According to NASA, the less intense sun storms come under the category of Class M, while the stronger ones like the one noticed on Friday are categorized as Class X. The Class X flares are considered to be 10 times as powerful as the Class M ones and are capable of interfering with the Earth's satellites and other communications if they head in a particular direction.
Even though Class M flares are not that destructive, they are important too.
NASA's NuSTAR, with its extraordinary design, can give a clearer look at the sun.
"NuSTAR will give us a unique look at the sun, from the deepest to the highest parts of its atmosphere. NuSTAR will be exquisitely sensitive to the faintest X-ray activity happening in the solar atmosphere, and that includes possible nanoflares," said David Smith, a solar physicist and member of the NuSTAR team at University of California, Santa Cruz, CBS News reports.
Nanoflares are small versions of the sun's giant flares that erupt with high-energy rays and charged particles.
The video of the solar flares captured by NASA is below: