Early on Aug. 9, 2011, the sun lashed out with its largest solar flare since 2006. Want to see what this X6.9-class fire beast looked like?
Addled Angstroms! That was one heck of a solar flare that the Sun unleashed at 3:48 a.m. Tuesday morning. In fact, the X6.9-class super flare was the largest in the star's current 11-year solar cycle (which began in 2008), and larger than any since 2006. The explosion was three times bigger than the muy caliente Valentine's flare of this February, which rated X2.2 and was as big as Jupiter.
The sun's flare gun was not aimed at Earth this time 'round, so earthlings are probably safe from meandering blobs of sky-scrambling space plasma. For a window of about an hour, the flare did pose a threat to communication systems over much of the world with a possible R3 (medium-intensity) radio blackout. One NOAA space-weather expert thought it probably disrupted high-frequency radio chatter in the Mideast, a means of communication used by the U.S. military, among other groups.
The flare popped out of the festering sunspot AR 1263 and did a staccato rat-tat-tat of blinking white light that dazed telescope jockeys. Said NOAA yesterday: "The region remains hot at this writing." Follow the jump for several views of the 6.9er recorded by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory. If you can get to it quick before the links become buried, this foreign-language page also has great-looking observations.