The Sun Just Released The Biggest Solar Flare In 12 Years

Delia Watkins
September 10, 2017

Yesterday, that same sunspot emitted an M-class solar flare - one-tenth the size of an X-class flare - leading to a coronal mass ejection aimed toward Earth that could cause auroras tonight as far south as OH and Indiana. Coincidentally, the most recent solar flare was directed to Earth, which causes radiation storms in the upper atmosphere. The two eruptions occurred in an active region of the sun where an eruption of average intensity occurred on September 4.

They are powerful bursts of radiation that are then catapulted through space at high speed, and are important for humans to observe because when they are strong enough they disturb our atmosphere.

The flare was classified as an M-class one, measuring a tenth the size of the most intense flares, the X-class flares.

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During large solar flares, the sun can also sling a cloud of energetic plasma from its body, an event called a coronal mass ejection (CME).

NASA captured images of two massive sun solar flares this week, one was the biggest since at least 2008. Six sizable flares from the same active region have been released since a mid-level solar flare on Sep. Despite the rare occurrence, cycle end flares tend to be more powerful and explosive. In fact, the Sun has a roughly 11-year sunspot cycle - the result of the its changing magnetic field. A-Class flares are the weakest, while X-Class are the most energetic. However, 3 hours later, a second flare erupted. Another X-class flare was spat out by the Sun at 5:10 am EDT (2:40 pm IST), which was a comparatively smaller emission. The flash of light and high energy particles released is the solar flare, while the solar matter from the magnetic contortions are CMEs.

But it can disturb the atmosphere in the layer where Global Positioning System and communications signals travel, something that NASA said was felt as a high-frequency radio blackout, that lasted for about an hour on Wednesday.

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