As the world watches on as hurricanes smash into the Caribbean, Cuba and the United States, NASA just reported a giant solar flare that is the most powerful one seen since 2006. The solar flares are so powerful that it has already caused some radio blackouts on Earth and they may even cause an aurora so big and bright that it is visible from as far south as London.
NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) recorded two giant solar flares on September 6.
One was recorded at X2.2 flare with an ‘X’ denoting the most powerful and intense flares and then just over three hours later an X9.3.
A solar flare is a sudden flash from the Sun’s increased brightness. These flares are usually found in active regions where magnetic fields are much stronger than average.
Despite the weird numbering system that the SDO uses, the ‘X’s’ actually mark the intensity of the flares. X2 is twice as intense, X3 is three times as intense and so on and so forth.
Both the flares are said to be emitted from an active part of the Sun known as AR 2673. This occurs at a unique time since the Sun is entering into the solar minimum.
The solar minimum denotes a quieter period and usually portrays less activity. The Sun goes through an 11-year-long solar cycle so these two giant solar flares come at a rather unique and weird time in their cycle.
According to the Space Weather Prediction Center, they predicted some radio blackouts after the solar flares and even some high-frequency radios would lose their connections.
Some solar flares are accompanied by a coronal mass ejection and these ejections could cause a massive geomagnetic storm that could severely affect our communications on Earth.
A coronal mass ejection or a CME is a massive release of plasma and magnetic field and they often follow a solar flare.
The Space Weather Prediction Center said: ‘analysis indicates likely CME arrival late on 8 September into early 9 September.’ The most intense solar flare was recorded back in 2003 at an X28. It was so powerful that it overpowered NASA’s solar measurement sensors and it very well could have been much stronger.