X Marks the Spot: Powerful Flare Erupts on the Sun

An extreme ultraviolet image from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory shows a flare erupting from the sun's disk, just above and to the right of center, at 1752 GMT (1:52 p.m. ET) Saturday. NASA / SDO

It's fitting that a powerful solar flare created a bright X-shaped pattern in this extreme ultraviolet view of the sun's disk, captured Saturday by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory. The blast rates as an X-class flare, which puts it in the most serious category of solar flares.

Saturday's outburst comes after a series of M-class outbursts from the same sunspot region, known as AR 2017. The SolarHam website reports that the X1 flare caused a brief radio blackout. It also sent out a storm of electrically charged particles, known as a coronal mass ejection. However, SolarHam said the brunt of the storm was apparently "directed to the north and away from Earth."

Really bad solar storms can disrupt communications and electrical grids on Earth, but this doesn't appear to be one of those cases. The likeliest effect would be heightened displays of the northern lights. For updates on solar weather, check in with SolarHam as well as and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Space Weather Prediction Center.