Published: Thu, September 07, 2017
Sci-tech | By Carrie Guzman

Sun emits two solar flares, one was the strongest in a decade

Sun emits two solar flares, one was the strongest in a decade

"The current solar cycle began in December 2008, and is now decreasing in intensity and heading toward solar minimum".

A burst of hot plasma spit out by the sun is about to slam into the Earth, sparking possible auroras that could be visible in the US from the Midwest to the Northeast. The result is superheating of the sun's surface coupled with a blast of energy that triggers radiation storms in the Earth's atmosphere. Both are classified by solar experts as X-class flares, considered the most powerful sun-storm category.

On Wednesday, two solar flares erupted from sunspot region 2673: an X9.3 flare followed by a an X2.2 flare.

An X9.3-class solar flare flashes in the middle of the Sun on September 6, 2017.

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These radiation flares can disrupt communications satellites, Global Positioning System and power grids by reaching the upper Earth atmosphere. These jets of ionized matter are projected at high speed into and beyond the crown of the sun - hundreds of thousands of kilometers outward.

When a strong CME strikes the Earth at 200 miles per second, the radiation reacts with the planet's magnetic field and causes a brilliant display of moving color across the night sky known as an aurora. While we're treated to a fantastic light show in the form of the northern lights (which are expected tonight, due to a CME that left the sun on Tuesday), powerful CMEs can cause power grid disruptions. A similar storm in 1989 had invalidated power in the Canadian province of Quebec leaving millions of people in dark for hours.

Extreme solar flares are also unsafe, especially for satellites in space close to the Earth, as the plasma jolts can damage then, and even mess with the electrical grid here.

When a sunspot group does appear, you could have a chance to watch it grow and evolve-they can be visible for up to two weeks before they start to fade or rotate out of view. "But we await SOHO/LASCO coronagraph imagery for confirmation". Heliophysics, the field of study devoted to the sun and its effects on space, is a science that can often be seen and appreciated from Earth.

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