Strongest solar flare in a decade were many times larger than Earth

Muriel Hammond
September 8, 2017

The star is on the downslope of its 11 year solar cycle, nearing its minimum of activity.

The two flares occurred Wednesday morning at 5:10am and 8:02am EDT.

The sun emitted two significant solar flares on the morning of September 6, 2017, according to NASA.

Solar storms can make satellites and power grids on Earth go a little wonky.

The sun unleashed its strongest solar flare in more than a decade early Wednesday, creating a shortwave radio blackout that lasted up to an hour over parts of Asia, Africa and Europe on the sunlit side of the Earth. Nasa said that both of the solar flares have been deemed X-class, which "denotes the most intense flares".

Extreme solar flares are also risky, especially for satellites in space close to the Earth, as the plasma jolts can damage then, and even mess with the electrical grid here. Physicists believe the magnetic field can become twisted and looped as the Sun rotates, until finally these lines "snap". The flash of light and high energy particles released is the solar flare, while the solar matter from the magnetic contortions are CMEs.

The second flare was massive.

Solar cycles last on average 11 years. A flare, which is a localized explosion of light and particles on the Sun, can also trigger a secondary blast of particles into interplanetary space.

While a CME did erupt in the wake of these two solar flares, NASA is still trying to analyze whether or not Earth is in its path.

The strong geomagnetic storm warning issued by NASA is, as of September 7, still in effect and will continue to be over the next few days.

The Sun may not be done yet, either - the large group of sunspots, which is visible through a protective solar filter (including those solar eclipse glasses you may still have lying around), has already sent out other, weaker M-class flares. The massive energy output collided with the Earth's atmosphere, causing radio blackouts in the high-frequency spectrum for over an hour.

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