Washington D.C., Aug. 1 -- : Using data from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, scientists have developed a new model that successfully predicted seven of the Sun's biggest flares from the last solar cycle, out of a set of nine.

With more development, the model could be used to one day inform forecasts of these intense bursts of solar radiation.

As it progresses through its natural 11-year cycle, the Sun transitions from periods of high to low activity, and back to high again. The scientists focused on X-class flares, the most powerful kind of these solar fireworks.

Compared to smaller flares, big flares like these are relatively infrequent; in the last solar cycle, there were around 50. But they can have big impacts, from disrup...