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Sun unleashes most powerful solar flare since 2006
08 September 2017, 12:45 | Kristen Gross
A massive X9.3-class solar flare blasted from the sun at 8:02 a.m. EDT. Credit Steve Spaleta SDO AIA
Interestingly, the solar flares come at a surprising period, as the Sun approaches its solar minimum period in its cycle.
It's the biggest flare on record in a decade.
Solar Cycle = An 11-year period when the sun's activity waxes and wanes.
The path of the solar flare's CME is now being modelled to see whether some of the material could impact our atmosphere. Nasa said that both of the solar flares have been deemed X-class, which "denotes the most intense flares".
As of about 11.30am NZT, data from several satellites showed a sharp increase in activity. In this system, an X2 flare is twice as strong as an X1 flare, an X3 flare is three times as strong as an X1 flare, and so forth.
The first flare peaked at 6:15 a.m. EDT (1015 GMT) and is classified as an M7.3, or a midlevel flare.
On 6 September it was reported that the merger of the two largest groups of sunspots was the most powerful flare in the past 12 years which belongs to the class X. the event was rated a score of 9.3, making the outbreak one of the five powerful explosions in the Sun in the entire history of observations.
That means that these charged particles can slam into Earth's magnetic field, supercharging auroras when they interact with neutral particles in the planet's upper atmosphere.
According to the Center for prediction of space weather (SWPC), these eruptions tell of category X have disrupted radio communications in high-frequency for an hour on the side of the Earth facing the sun, as well as communications at the low frequency used in the navigation. Flares can last for minutes or hours, raising the local temperature of the Sun's surface by tens of millions of degrees.
M-class flares may cause brief radio blackouts in polar regions and minor concern for any orbiting astronauts. Wednesday's X9.3 flare already caused a strong radio blackout.
This morning (Sept. 7), the SWPC issued a new G3 (strong) geomagnetic storm watch "in anticipation of the arrival of another CME associated with the X9.3 flare" seen on Wednesday.
If Earth is in the CME's path, the particles interact with our magnetic field.
Solar flares occur in sun spots, the cooler regions of the sun. SDO and other satellites will continue monitoring the Sun for such events.
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