Sun flares up in massive explosion…

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

planetary alignment
On the evening of April 8, Mars rose from the eastern horizon and graced the sky with a brilliant light.

We know that space is a mysterious place, and after the events that have occurred over the last few days, it seems more amazing than ever. First, the Sun gave off a massive burst of energy known as a solar flare earlier in the week, and on Tuesday it aligned perfectly with Earth and Mars!

So, what are solar flares, exactly? They’re enormous bursts of radiation from the Sun that send energy, light, and particles zooming through space. The power is roughly equivalent to about 100 megatons of hydrogen bombs detonating at once! These fiery explosions are rated on a classification scale from weakest to strongest as follows: A, B, C, M, and X. Each class is 10 times stronger than the one before it, so a B-class is 10 times stronger than an A-class for example.

Solar flares classified as M and X have the potential to cause storms that blackout satellites and place astronauts in harm’s way, and the one on April 2, 2014 was an M-class. However, the blast didn’t cause any damage since it wasn’t directed towards the Earth. Speaking of our home planet, we were perfectly aligned with the Sun and Mars on Tuesday night! Every two years or so, the Red Planet reaches a point in its orbit known as an “opposition”, where it can be lined up with the Sun and Earth. Mars can end up becoming visible in the night sky right around sunset in the east. It then stays up all night and finally sets in the west just as the Sun rises the following morning!

If you didn’t catch it on Tuesday, don’t worry, because it will still be visible throughout the month.

Images courtesy of NASA.