The sun unleashes an intense Category X solar flare, with more to come

A powerful solar flare exploded on the sun’s surface late Thursday from a complex sunspot that could, quite literally, erupt again very soon.

It was an explosion of charged particles It is registered as an X1.2 class flare. X flares are the most powerful class of flares, and can cause geomagnetic storms To affect the Earth’s magnetic field with the potential to damage satellites, communications equipment, and even the power grid.

The flare was the strongest seen since at least October.


An X1 glow like this one, though, is on the lower end of the X scale. Thus, no immediate damage has yet been reported from the explosion itself, other than a short-wave radio blackout over parts of Australia and the South Pacific. This dimming was the result of an energetic solar flare that travels at the speed of light toward our planet, reaching Earth in just eight minutes. However, it was short.

However, scientists believe there is definitely more to this sunspot’s arsenal.

Former NASA astronomer Tony Phillips wrote in

Strong flares are often accompanied by coronal mass ejections (CMEs) of hot plasma that can spew toward Earth but at much slower speeds, taking a day or more to make the trip.

When there is a direct impact on Earth, the result can be bright auroral displays at higher latitudes, but also the aforementioned infrastructure damage. So far there is no report of a CME accompanying Thursday’s flare.

This is a welcome surprise, since the massive and powerfully complex sunspot it produced has spent the first part of this week blasting powerful flares and the CME off the far side of the Sun. Now that sunspot, cataloged as AR3182, is orbiting in our direct line of sight from Earth, which means that a future CME over the next few days may be pointed directly at us.

NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center forecasts 10 percent chance of more X flares over the weekend.

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