Sun Unleashes Largest Solar Flare in More Than Three Years
A massive storm over the Sun discharged the largest solar flare in three years on Sunday
WASHINGTON — A massive storm over the Sun discharged the largest solar flare in more than three years on Sunday, No. 29.
Astronomer Tony Phillips reports at Spaceweather.com that the sun experienced a massive explosion known as a coronal mass ejection behind the southeast solar limb on Sunday. This was classified as an M-class flare by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which is a medium-sized blast. While the flare was not Earth-directed, and was partially eclipsed by the Sun, it did cause radio blackouts in the South Atlantic.
However, Sunday's flare is just part of the beginning of a new solar cycle, which is called the solar minimum, and scientists expect a period of increasing activity and explosive sunspots until the solar maximum in roughly mid-2025.
A more violent X-class flare directed toward Earth could cause fluctuations in power grids as well as high-frequency radio blackouts and navigational issues over the sunlit part of Earth. Humans are more vulnerable to solar flare now because of our increasingly digital society and reliance on satellite-based communications.
According to NASA, solar flares take place when magnetic energy built up within the sun's atmosphere is suddenly released.
They impact everything on the electromagnetic spectrum, from radio waves to X-rays. The energy released is equivalent to millions of 100-megaton nuclear bombs exploding at the same time.
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