Largest solar flare in 12 years observed


A total of three X-class flares were observed over a 48-hour period, along with medium-intensity flares that went off earlier last week, and another, just slightly less intense X-class flare on Sunday.

Nasa said one of the solar flares was the most intense that there has been in 12 years.

Last week, the sun unleashed the most powerful solar flare in more than a decade.

While it may sound alarming, it is actually something star's do every now and then, and with our star, the sun, it is part of its 11-year cycle.

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The large solar bursts have energies comparable to one billion hydrogen bombs and can drive plasma away from the solar surface at speeds of up to 2,000 kilometres per second (km/s) in phenomena known as coronal mass ejections. "It takes a lot of energy to heat up the surface of the sun!"

A flurry of solar storms saw the sun firing seven large solar flares in seven days, prompting warnings of possible radio blackouts and other disruptions. Bookended by much smaller X2.2 and X1.39 flares, the largest was a huge X9.3 eruption, followed by another X8.2 on September 10.

While these solar flares do not typically cause a great deal of damage on earth, Gizmodo notes that, "These events also cause radio blackouts, corrosion in pipelines, and ground-induced currents that can damage transformers. This is a phase when such eruptions on the sun are increasingly rare, but history has shown that they can nonetheless be intense", continued the NASA statement. That was followed by a coronal mass ejection, which is anticipated to reach Earth on September 13. M-class flares are a tenth the size of X-class flares and C-class flares are the weakest of the bunch. When solar flares like these are directed at Earth, the resulting radiation storm can easily impede radio and Global Positioning System communications. The GOES spacecraft are satellites in geostationary orbits around the Earth that have measured the soft X-ray flux from the Sun since the mid-1970s, and it is the observations from the GEOS spacecraft that are commonly used to classify flares today.

The most powerful solar flare ever detected occurred in 2003. A huge solar flare on August 4, 1972, knocked out long-distance telephone communication across IL. Despite the recent appearance of sunspots and flares, the sun is heading toward a solar minimum, expected sometime between 2019 and 2020.