The sun emitted a mid-level solar flare, peaking at 5:13 a.m. EST on Jan. 7, 2014. Images of the flare were captured by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory and showed that it came from an active region on the sun that currently sports one of the largest sunspots seen in the last 10 years. Sunspots are regions of strong and complex magnetic fields on the sun's surface.
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.
To see how this event may impact 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.
This flare is classified as an M7.2-class flare.