The Sun hurled another powerful flare in our direction on Tuesday, the most recent in a series of solar explosions that included one of the most powerful observed in 25 years. The blast belongs to category of flares known as X-class flares and appears to come from an active region of the Sun known as 9415.
Solar flares rank among our Sun's most powerful emissions, exploding with as much force as a billion megatons of TNT. They are caused by the sudden release of magnetic energy. In fact, such blasts can drive solar particles to extremely high velocities, approaching the speed of light. Tuesday's flare was accompanied by a cloud of electrified, magnetic gas called a coronal mass ejection, or CME.
Taking the complex magnetic field structure of region 9415 into consideration, researchers expect that the area will fire off more solar outbursts in the future. "This is another in an exciting series of solar events," NASA's Ernest Hildler remarks, "during this maximum epoch of the current solar activity cycle."