On January 7, 2014 the Solar Dynamics Observatory witnessed the eruption of a large solar flare, the first of 2014. The flare occurred in a sunspot group known as AR1944, which is currently in the middle of the sun as viewed from Earth, and registered as a X1.2-class sun storm, the strongest grade of solar flare.
Solar flares have the potential to interrupt satellite-based navigation and communication systems on Earth. While that is not a risk from this flare, the flare did result in a delay of a cargo launch to the International Space Station. The astronauts aboard the ISS were not at any risk from radiation from the flare according to NASA, but the resulting geomagnetic storm may create a spectacular northern lights show here on Earth in the next few days.
The X-class solar flare came just hours after a smaller M7.2-class flare. Both events were imaged by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) and can be seen in a video here at Space.com. SDO launched in 2010 with multiple types of Luxel filters aboard its Extreme Ultraviolet Variability Experiment (EVE) instrument and the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA) instrument.
A solar wind increase to near 500 km/s was first detected by the ACE Spacecraft. Magnetometers around the globe detected a geomagnetic sudden impulse at approximately 13:11 UTC. This signaled the passage of the interplanetary shock wave (IP Shock) past our planet. At first glance the impact appears to be weak, however increased geomagnetic activity will be possible in the hours ahead in the wake of the passage.