It's rare for NASA to call anything the "best," but in late March, its telescopes captured an X-class solar flare that "vaulted into history as the best-observed flare of all time."
The flare was witnessed on March 29 by four different NASA spacecraft and one observatory on Earth, making the amount of resources tuned in on the flare unprecedented, and giving NASA even more information about these massive sun explosions.
This combined image shows the March 29, 2014, X-class flare as seen through the eyes of different observatories. SDO is on the bottom/left, which helps show the position of the flare on the sun. The darker orange square is IRIS data. The red rectangular inset is from Sacramento Peak. The violet spots show the flare's footpoints from RHESSI. (Image source and caption: NASA)
"This is the most comprehensive data set ever collected by NASA's Heliophysics Systems Observatory," said Jonathan Cirtain, project scientist for Hinode at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center. "Some of the spacecraft observe the whole sun all the time, but three of the observatories had coordinated in advance to focus on a specific active region of the sun. We need at least a day to program in observation time and the target – so it was extremely fortunate that we caught this X-class flare."
Watch this video about the flare:
According to NASA's news release, such coordinated observations of solar flares are important to learning more that can lead to their prediction and better prepare for the effects on Earth.
There are four classes of solar flares, B, C, M and X. X-class flares, the largest type, are what create long-lasting radiation storms that can disrupt satellites and other systems.