Most powerful solar flare in decade causes radio blackouts

Two high-intensity solar flares were emitted on Wednesday, the second of which was the most intense recorded since the start of this sun cycle in December 2008, NASA said.

The X9.3 flare was the largest flare so far in the current solar cycle, the approximately 11-year-cycle during which the sun’s activity waxes and wanes.

Real-time monitoring and forecasting of solar and geophysical events data provider SPACE WEATHER PREDICTION CENTER (SWPC), NATIONAL OCEANIC AND ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION observed low-frequency communication, a wide area of blackouts and loss of contact with High-frequency radios for nearly an hour Yesterday. The radiation coming from the flares, could disrupt communications satellites, the Global Positioning System and power grids by reaching the upper Earth atmosphere.

Solar flares occur when the sun’s magnetic field – which creates the dark sunspots on the star’s surface – twists up and reconnects, blasting energy outward and superheating the solar surface.

The path of the solar flare’s CME is now being modelled to see whether some of the material could impact our atmosphere. “However, we have to wait until we get some coronagraph imagery that would capture that event for a definitive answer”. The United States Space Agency’s Solar Dynamics Observatory detected these facts and also captured images.

The two eruptions occurred in an active region of the sun which had already produced a rash of average intensity on 4 September.

“We are heading toward solar minimum, but the interesting thing about that is you can still have events, they’re just not as frequent”, Steenburgh said.

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