The sun emitted a significant solar flare on Monday. This flare is classified as an X4.9-class flare. X-class denotes the most intense flares, while the number provides more information about its strength (an X2 is twice as intense as an X1, an X3 is three times as intense, etc).

Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation, appearing as giant flashes of light in Nasa's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) images. Although harmful radiation from a flare cannot pass through Earth's atmosphere to physically affect humans on the ground, it can disturb the atmosphere in the layer where GPS and communications signals travel.

Nasa's SDO, which keeps a constant watch on the sun, captured images of the event. The SDO satellite was launched in February 2010 and is expected to observe the behaviour of the sun for five years. In this gallery, we look at some of the most spectacular images captured and sent back to Earth.

x class
An X-class solar flare erupts on the left side of the sun on 24 February, 2014. This composite image shows the sun in ultraviolet light with wavelengths of both 131 and 171 angstromsNASA/SDO
SDO
A series of images from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) show the first moments of an X-class significant solar flare in different wavelengths of light. Hot solar material can be seen hovering above the active region in the sun's atmosphere, the coronaReuters/NASA/SDO
composite
This image is a composite of 25 separate images spanning the period of 11 February, 2013 to 11 February, 2014. It uses the wavelength of 304 Angstroms and reveals the zones on the sun where active regions and associated eruptions most commonly occur during Solar MaximumNASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/SDO/S. Wiessinger
rainbow
This image is based on data from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory and shows the wide range of wavelengths – invisible to the naked eye – that the telescope can view. By examining pictures of the sun in a variety of wavelengths scientists can track how particles and heat move through the sun's atmosphereNASA/SDO
mosaic
This collage of solar images from NASA's SDO shows how observations of the sun in different wavelengths helps highlight different aspects of the sun's surface and atmosphereNASA/SDO
sunspot
One of the largest sunspots seen in the last nine years, labelled AR1944, is captured by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory in early January 2014. An image of Earth has been added for scale. Read more at: http://archaeologynewsnetwork.blogspot.co.uk/2014/01/nasas-sdo-sees-giant-january-sunspots.html#.Uw358Pl_tHU Follow us: @ArchaeoNewsNet on Twitter | groups/thearchaeologynewsnetwork/ on FacebookReuters/NASA/SDO
comet
The comet ISON comes in from the bottom right and moves out towards the upper right, getting fainter and fainter as it passes the sun in November 2013. The comet made a close fly-by of the sun but it did not survive the intense bombardment of solar radiationESA/NASA/SOHO/SDO/GSFC via Getty Images
canyon of fire
A 200,000-mile-long filament rips through the sun's atmosphere leaving behind what looks like a canyon of fire during its eruption on 29-30 September, 2013. The glowing canyon traces the channel where magnetic fields held the filament aloft before the explosionReuters/NASA/SDO
moon
The moon travels across the sun in this Solar Dynamics Observatory image from 7 October, 2010. Two or three times a year, NASA's SDO observes the moon travelling across the sun, blocking its view. The moon's crisp horizon can be seen up against the sun, because the moon does not have an atmosphereReuters/NASA/SDO
eruption
A solar eruption rises from the surface of the sun on 31 December, 2012. The relatively minor eruption extended 160,000 miles out from the sun and was about 20 times the diameter of EarthNASA/SDO via Getty Images
two flares
The sun erupts with two prominent eruptions, one after the other over a four-hour period, on 16 November, 2012Reuters/NASA/SDO
earth
The sun is partially blocked by Earth on 6 September, 2012. Twice a year, for three weeks near the equinox, NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory moves into its eclipse season -- a time when Earth blocks its view of the sun for a period of time each dayReuters/NASA/SDO
filament
A long filament of solar material that had been hovering in the sun's atmosphere, the corona, erupts out into space at over 900 miles per second on 31 August, 2012. The CME did not travel directly toward Earth, but did connect with Earth's magnetic environment, or magnetosphere, causing auroras to appear on the night of 3 September, 2012Reuters/NASA/SDO
magnetic loops
Magnetic loops on the sun are captured by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory on 19 July, 2012. Loops such as these are known as flux ropes, and these lie at the heart of eruptions on the sun known as coronal mass ejectionsReuters/NASA/SDO
venus
The first image of the transit of Venus across the face of the sun is captured from space on 5 June, 2012Reuters/NASA/SDO
venus path
The SDO satellite captures the path sequence of the transit of Venus across the face of the sun on 5-6 June, 2012 as seen from spaceSDO/NASA via Getty Images
cme
The sun unleashes an M-2 (medium-sized) solar flare, an S1-class (minor) radiation storm and a spectacular coronal mass ejection (CME) on 7 June, 2011 from sunspot complex 1226-1227. The large cloud of particles mushroomed up and fell back down looking as if it covered an area of almost half the solar surfaceReuters/NASA/SDO
prominence
One of the first SDO images released shows a prominence eruption from the sun on 30 March, 2010Reuters/NASA/SDO
first UV
An extreme ultraviolet image, using false colours to trace different gas temperatures, of the solar prominence on 30 March, 2010Reuters/NASA/SDO
magnetic fields
This illustration maps the magnetic field lines emanating from the sun and their interactions, superimposed on an extreme ultraviolet imageNASA/SDO