On Jan. 22, 2012, the Sun erupted with a solar flare, a coronal mass ejection, and a burst of highly energetic protons known as solar energetic particles. The solar flare was only medium in size. But the other two events packed quite a punch creating the most intense solar radiation storm since 2003.
Within minutes of the eruption, solar particles swirled into the Earth's magnetosphere—the protective envelope that shields our planet from the sun's powerful rays. Dazzling auroras electrified the night sky as the coronal mass ejection raced behind the flare at almost 1,400 miles per second and hit Earth within 36 hours. For three days the storm degraded radio transmissions at high latitudes, forcing some airplanes flying polar routes—where pilots rely exclusively on radio navigation—to be rerouted. Watch the video below for multiple views of the eruption as captured by sun-observing satellites.