Strongest Solar Flare After 2008 Resulted In R3 Radio Blackout

Storm Warning Solar Outburst Could Scramble Earth's Communications
A massive X9.3-class solar flare blasted from the sun at 8:02 a.m. EDT. Credit Steve Spaleta SDO AIA
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08 September, 2017

These jets of radiation, which can disrupt the operation of communication satellites and the Global Positioning System as well as the electricity distribution networks reaching earth's upper atmosphere, were detected and recorded by the satellite "Solar Dynamics Observatory" of the u.s. space Agency to 3: 10 and 6: 02 p.m.

The size of the second flare is somewhat usual, according to Smithsonian.com, since the sun is now at solar minimum, or the period of lowest activity during its 11-year cycle.

Unfortunately, the solar flares come at a bit of an inopportune time for those of us on Earth (and especially in the US), as many are relying on weather satellites to continue monitoring Hurricane Irma and other Atlantic-based storms. Both are classified by solar experts as X-class flares, considered the most powerful sun-storm category. Flares can last for minutes or hours, raising the local temperature of the Sun's surface by tens of millions of degrees. And we might see some other effects in the coming days, mainly in the form of northern lights. If they become too entangled, the stored energy is released in the form of a solar flare. The result is superheating of the sun's surface coupled with a blast of energy that triggers radiation storms in the Earth's atmosphere.

The most recent X9 flare took place in 2006, at X9.0. The last time an X9 struck the Earth was almost 10 years ago, causing widespread radio blackouts. This is a huge cloud of magnetized particles that travels along the solar wind at incredible speeds, sometimes hundreds of kilometres a second or as fast as thousands of kilometres per second. While some older satellites could be hampered when hit with charged particles and strong magnetic fields from the sun, the probe which is providing images of Irma - GOES-16 - is new, having just been launched last November, he noted.

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"The details of solar flares remain somewhat elusive in the sense that we still can't predict when they'll happen, but we can at least tell when a sunspot has a particular magnetic field configuration that can harbor powerful solar flares", astrophysicist Karl Battams said.

In addition to lovely auroras, the geomagnetic storm could disrupt communications, as well as damage satellites and power grids.

NASA also notes that the radio blackout from the flare has passed. "But we await SOHO/LASCO coronagraph imagery for confirmation".

Compared to C- and M-class events, X-class flares are big; they are major events that can trigger radio blackouts around the whole world and long-lasting radiation storms in the upper atmosphere.


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