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  HOME | Science, Nature & Technology

Scientists Detect Largest Solar Flare in a Decade

MADRID – The Sun has recently registered a series of intense solar flares, powerful radiation bursts that have temporarily affected Earth’s magnetic field, briefly distorted Global Positioning Systems (GPS) and High-Frequency radio signals in both America and Europe, according to a National Spanish Space Weather Service (Senmes) announcement on Tuesday.

Although the harmful radiation from a Solar flare cannot pass through our atmosphere (and Earth’s own Van Allen radiation-protective field) to physically harm humans on the ground, a major flare is capable of disturbing the upper atmospheric layer where GPS and communications signals travel.

The Spanish Senmes noted that these recent solar events have kept Space weather agencies around the world busy.

Space weather must not be confused with the data supplied from orbital weather satellites monitoring Earth’s daily weather patterns.

What Space weather does is observe, monitor, analyze and attempt to forecast, or follow in real time, the state of our Sun, the Solar system in general and the Deep Space beyond.

The objective is to seek and determine if any perturbations outside our atmosphere may have a potential impact on Earthbound biological and technological systems.

These recent events detected by the Spanish Space weather service, and other agencies, have detected substantial Solar flares (massive releases of electromagnetic radiation) and Solar Coronal Massive Ejections (CME’s) composed of intense radiation and solar winds released by the Sun.

Although a mid-level solar flare was detected on Sept. 4, it was on Sept. 6, just minutes before 1200 GMT, when the Sun launched two major solar events. The first flare was classified as an X2.2 flare and the second, a massive X9.3 flare.

X-class events are the Sun’s most intensely energetic flares, while the number informs of its strength.

Accordingly, an X2 is twice as intense as an X1, an X3 is three times as intense, etc.; thus, the X9.3 became the biggest solar flare event in a decade, releasing a massive wave of high energy solar particles.

According to Cid: “It would be the equivalent of a Solar earthquake with an important shock wave,” adding that it generated a fast moving solar wind at over “1,000 kilometers per second and capable of reaching Earth.”

Since then, the Sun has continued flaring, emitting highly luminous radiation and affecting Earth’s GPS and radio frequencies in Europe and America even compounding “the effect of Hurricane Irma,” according to the agency’s statement.

Just as the Sun seemed to be on its path to recovery, on Sunday, Sept. 10, at 1535 GMT, another large solar flare event took place, nearly identical to the previous one on Sept. 6.

NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), which constantly monitors the Sun, captured an image of the event; on this occasion a X8.2-class flare (causing a strong -R3- radio blackout back here on Earth).

The agency now will have to wait two weeks to verify if this active solar region (Active Region 2673), has subdued as it slowly rotates off the front of the sun as part of our star’s normal rotation.

Regarding the Solar forecast for Wednesday, according to the US Space Weather prediction center, there is a moderate G2 coronal hole advisory scheduled.

 

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