A massive solar flare erupted from the sun on Saturday (Feb. 11), triggering a radio blackout across parts of Earth and setting the stage for more flares to come.
The massive solar flare, registered as a powerful X1.1 class event on the scale used for such solar storms, peaked at 10:48 am EST (1548 GMT) on Saturday, according to the US Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC). ). operated by NOAA. It originated from an area of the sun called Active Region 3217 and created a temporary radio blackout in South America, the center said. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory captured stunning video of the solar flare.
“More flares are expected from this region as it moves across the sun, creating occasional degradation of high-frequency (3-30 MHz) communication,” the SWPC officials wrote. (opens in new tab)on alert.
Related: The Wrath of the Sun: The Worst Solar Storms in History
Solar flares are massive eruptions of charged particles on the sun and come in a variety of intensities, with the smaller class A and C flares denoting relatively minor events, while the stronger class M flares can lead to amplifying the auroras we see in Earth. Class X is the strongest type of solar flares. The strongest X-class eruption on record occurred in 2003 and was recorded as an X28 eruption before it overloaded the space weather sensors that measured it.
Intense solar flares can also eject large amounts of solar material in what scientists call a coronal mass ejection (CME), which can hurl vast clouds of solar plasma away from the sun at speeds of up to 1 million miles per hour. When aimed directly at Earth, the strongest solar flares and CMEs can interfere with communication systems, power stations, and even endanger astronauts and satellites in space.
According to Spaceweather.com (opens in new tab), which tracks space weather events, there was no CME associated with Saturday’s X1.1 solar flare. There was, the website added, a detected CME of a different event – an eruption of a solar filament from the sun’s northern hemisphere.
That eruption sent a CME toward Earth that is expected to reach Earth on Feb. 14 and could lead to more intense aurorae, the website reported.
“Arctic skywatchers can get a light show on Valentine’s Day,” wrote Spaceweather.com (opens in new tab).
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