Major solar flare erupts
Posted: April 16, 2001

  Solar Flare
A massive solar flare erupts from the surface of the Sun as seen by the Soho observatory's Extreme-ultraviolet Imaging Telescope on Easter Sunday. Photo: ESA/NASA
One of the largest solar flares ever recorded erupted from the sun's surface at around 1350 GMT on Sunday. The powerful flare, which sent a shower of high energy protons into space, was fortunately not directed at Earth.

The radiation from powerful X-ray flares can cause radio and power disruption and can also pose a threat to astronauts working in orbit. A major space storm in March 1989 brought down power grids in Quebec, Canada, leaving six million people without electricity.

Solar Flare
High energy particles streak across this image of the Sun, taken after Sunday's massive solar flare. Photo: ESA/NASA
Based on current data Sunday's flare is the fourth most powerful on record. After more detailed analysis the flare might rival the record-toping solar eruption on April 2 this year, according to an update on the Soho project's website.

Sunday's flare occurred during a surge in solar activity as the Sun nears the peak of its 11-year cycle. Eruptions in the past two weeks have sparked spectacular aurora as far south as Mexico.

The crew of the International Space Station was alerted about Sunday's flare and monitored radiation levels, but took no action after flight surgeons determined it was not a serious threat.