Sun unleashes biggest solar flare of the year
US: The most powerful solar flare of the year erupted from the
sun on April 11 sparking a temporary radio blackout on Earth, NASA
The solar flare occurred at 3:16 a.m. EDT (0716 GMT) and registered
as a M6.5-class sun storm, a relatively mid-level flare on the scale of
solar tempests. It coincided with an eruption of super-hot solar plasma
known as a coronal mass ejection.
“This is the strongest flare seen so far in 2013,” NASA spokeswoman
Karen Fox explained in a statement. “Increased numbers of flares are
quite common at the moment, since the sun’s normal 11-year cycle is
ramping up toward solar maximum, which is expected in late 2013.”
NASA’s sun-watching Solar Dynamics Observatory recorded a stunning
video of the strongest solar flare of 2013, showing it extreme detail.
The spacecraft is one of several space-based observatories keeping track
of the sun’s solar weather events.
NASA officials dubbed today’s solar flare as a “spring fling” for the
sun, which has been relatively calm as it heads into its peak activity
The M-class solar flare was about 10 times weaker than X-class
flares, which are the strongest flares the sun can unleash. M-class
solar flares are the weakest solar events that can still trigger space
weather effects near Earth, such as communications interruptions or
spectacular northern lights displays.
The solar flare triggered a short-lived radio communications blackout
on Earth that registered as an R2 event (on a scale of R1 to R5),
according to space weather scales maintained NOAA, Fox added.
When aimed directly at Earth, major solar flares and coronal mass
ejections can pose a threat to astronauts and satellites in orbit. They
can interfere with GPS navigation and communications satellite signals
in space, as well as impair power systems infrastructure on Earth.
Fox said NASA officials are tracking the coronal mass ejection to see
if it poses any space weather concerns for Earth. Meanwhile, the Solar
Dynamics Observatory and other space observatories will continue to
monitor the sun’s activity.
“Humans have tracked this solar cycle continuously since it was
discovered, and it is normal for there to be many flares a day during
the sun’s peak activity,” Fox explained.
- DECCAN HERALD