The radiation generated by flares such as these cause waves of ionization to ripple through the upper atmosphere (in a region known as the ionosphere). When this happens, shortwave radio transmissions around the planet can be affected and sometimes completely blocked. The NOAA routinely monitors these space weather events and issues maps of the regions and frequencies affected. Air traffic communications can be impacted, as can mariners and ham radio operators may have noticed a weakening in radio signals.
RELATED: Visualizing Our Sun's Messy Magnetic Mystery
The solar flare pair originated in a highly magnetized region known as an active region (AR). In this case, the AR2565-AR2567 sunspot complex was to blame. Powerful magnetic fields are extremely dense in this region, which is currently rotating over the sun's limb and out of view. But when the flares were triggered, beautiful arcs of superheated solar plasma could be seen reaching into the lower corona (the sun's multi-million degree atmosphere).
This intense environment was ripe for solar flares and, when the conditions were just right, magnetic reconnection occurred, causing a rapid magnetic reorganization that accelerated and heated the sun's plasma, generating intense radiation.
Followup observations also tracked a significant coronal mass ejection (or CME) race away from the blast site, taking a bubble of magnetism and hot gas with it (as shown in the animation above). Though the CME itself is not expected to hit Earth, shock waves from the CME can impact the flow of the solar wind -- a steady stream of ionized particles from the sun -- potentially causing a minor geomagnetic storm, according to Spaceweather.com. The stream of solar wind particles from this shock are expected to reach Earth orbit on Tuesday (July 26).
RELATED: Earth Photobombs Space Observatory's Pristine Solar View
By carefully monitoring the sun's lower corona and tracking events such as solar flares and CMEs, alerts can be sent out should damaging space weather conditions be predicted. Much like tracking a hurricane on Earth, tracking the progress of space weather can help prevent damage when the storm makes landfall (or "Earthfall"). High energy particles in CMEs and the solar wind can impact satellites and even have effects down here on Earth. For more on this topic, check out my recent DNews video.