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 super-heating the solar surface. It released an amount of energy comparable to that of a billion hydrogen bombs and sent radiation and plasma soaring toward Earth that's not harmful to life thanks to our planet's atmosphere and magnetic field.
According to the Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC), these so-called category X eruptions disrupted high-frequency radio communications for one hour on the Earth's side facing the sun and low-frequency communications used in navigation.
The sunny side of planet Earth had all of its Global Positioning System communications temporarily knocked out September 6 after the sun emitted two massive solar flares, showering the planet with radiation storms.
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The Sun's largest solar flare in more than 12 years - and the eighth largest since modern records began in 1996 - has been captured in high detail by scientists.
A group of researchers from the Queen's University Belfast and Sheffield University has captured the largest solar flare in around 12 years in the La Palma with the help of the Swedish Solar Telescope.
Like many powerful flares, Sunday's was accompanied by a coronal mass ejection (CME), a huge cloud of superheated solar plasma that races through space at millions of miles per hour. Astronomers using the Swedish Solar Telescope managed to do just that, not once, but three times in a row.
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Solar ejections are often associated with flares and sometimes occur shortly after the flare explosion. "To observe the rise phases of three X-classes over two days is just unheard of".
"The Sun is now in what we call solar minimum", said Aaron Reid, a research fellow at at Queen's University Belfast. "The number of Active Regions, where flares occur, is low, so to have X-class flares so close together is very usual". It was the most powerful since an enormous X17 flare burst forth in 2005, but even that doesn't stack up against the most intense solar flare ever seen. "These observations can tell us how and why these flares formed so we can better predict them in the future".
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