Powerful solar storms erupt from the Sun

Numbers assigned within the X-class are based on the flares' intensity. X2s have twice the energy of X1s; X3s have three times the energy of X1s, and so on.
By Laurel Kornfeld | Sep 11, 2017
The Sun emitted two powerful flares on Wednesday, September 6, followed by a coronal mass ejection (CME) that could damage Earth-orbiting satellites and shut down electronic communication and power grids while also producing beautiful auroras.

An X-class flare, the most powerful of solar storms, erupted from at 5:10 AM EDT (0910 GMT) from a huge sunspot. Less than three hours later, at 8:02 AM EDT, a second, much more powerful X-class flare followed it.

Numbers assigned within the X-class are based on the flares' intensity. X2s have twice the energy of X1s; X3s have three times the energy of X1s, and so on.

While the first flare, measured at X2.2, was the most powerful emitted by the Sun since 2015, the second one, an X9.3, was the strongest solar storm in 11 years.

Solar flares are eruptions of powerful radiation that cannot reach Earth's surface but can cause harm to GPS and communications satellites in orbit around the planet.

Both flares came from AR 2673, an active area on the solar surface that generated a medium-strength M-class flare just two days earlier.

NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), a satellite that has continuously studied the Sun since 2010, captured images of both flares, which appear as bright flashes of light coming from the solar surface.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) reported high-frequency radio blackouts and disruptions in the low-frequency communication used for navigation as a result of the flares.

A coronal mass ejection,or cloud of powerful plasma from the Sun's corona, and carried by the solar wind, was later detected by the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, a joint NASA-European Space Agency (ESA) spacecraft that studies the Sun's internal structure.

NOAA scientists are monitoring the CME to determine whether it is headed in Earth's direction.

A CME generated by Monday's solar flare is expected to produce brilliant, colorful auroras in high-latitude northern skies over the next few days.

 

 

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