/ December 3, 2013
This image, captured by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, shows the explosion of a solar flare from the right side of the sun.
Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation emanating from a small area on the sun's surface. While not harmful to humans, when powerful enough, they can interfere with GPS and communications signals.
The flare depicted here is classified as an X1.0 flare, one of the stronger types. According to NASA, solar flares can have significant impacts. "In the past, X-class flares of this intensity have caused degradation or blackouts of radio communications for about an hour," its website reads.
An increased amount of solar flares are typically noted as the sun nears "solar maximum", the period of greatest solar activity in the 11-year cycle of the sun. It is normal for there to be many solar flares a day during this period.