How the Strongest Solar Flare in a Decade Is Affecting Earth

The monster burst of radiation already caused brief radio blackouts and may trigger strong auroras in the coming days.
Early Wednesday morning, the sun unleashed two monster solar flares, the second of which was the most powerful we’ve seen in more than a decade. The burst of radiation was so intense, it caused high-frequency radio blackouts across the daytime side of Earth that lasted for about an hour.

Solar flares are giant explosions on the surface of the sun that occur when twisted magnetic field lines suddenly snap and release massive amounts of energy.
Space weather scientists classify flares based on their intensity, with X-class flares being the most powerful. These explosions can release as much energy as a billion hydrogen bombs.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Weather Prediction Center, the sun began unleashing its fury on Wednesday at 5:10 a.m. ET, with an X2.2 flare. Just three hours later, the sun produced a second flare measuring a whopping X9.3—the most powerful on record since 2006.

The strongest solar flare measured in modern times happened in 2003, when scientists recorded a blast so powerful that it was off the charts at X28.

On Thursday morning, scientists using the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, or SOHO, satellite confirmed that an accompanying giant cloud of charged particles, called a coronal mass ejection, now has Earth in its crosshairs. (Find out how sun-watchers stopped World War III in 1967.)”


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