2013-10-25 by Diana fka Desi Foxx
- Increased activity has led to stronger solar flares coming from the sun since Wednesday
- The strongest flare came early Friday morning, and caused a temporary radio blackout
- Flares glancing earth this weekend may cause further radio blackouts, as well as power grid and GPS issues
By Ryan Gorman
PUBLISHED: 17:40 EST, 25 October 2013 | UPDATED: 17:41 EST, 25 October 2013
Solar flares this week knocked out radio transmissions and had the potential to disrupt satellite communications and possibly harm astronauts in orbit.
A series of solar flares starting Wednesday and lasting into at least Friday were similar in strength to ones that in the past caused radio blackouts at the north and south poles and caused problems with GPS satellites and power grids, according to NASA.
The strongest flare came early Friday morning, just after 4am, and was rated as an X1.7-solar event, according to NBC News. The flare erupted from a newly discovered sunspot cluster, Region 1882, and caused a momentary radio blackout, officials said.
Burning up: The latest solar flare, on the sun’s left side, was caught in this x-ray image
Scientists have three classifications for solar flares – C, M and X – with C being the weakest. X-level solar flares aimed directly at Earth have in the past wreaked havoc with satellite communications and GPS, as well as put orbiting astronauts in danger.
Stronger X-level eruptions fired squarely at our planet have been known to cause problems with power grids as well. This latest flare does not appear to have been aimed directly at Earth, officials told NBC News.
Scientists are also awaiting the results of geothermal imaging to determine if the flare was linked to a massive super-hot plasma explosion that hurled solar material into space at speeds upwards of 1million mph, according to NBC News.
Flares occurring earlier in the week peaked at M9.4 on Wednesday, with less M-class flares following the peak flare, according to NASA. Wednesday’s peak flare was linked to a massive plasma explosion, also known as a coronal mass ejection.
A bright flash: As seen by the naked eye, the solar flare is the bright flash on the sun’s left side
One more time: This is the close up of the x-ray view of the solar flare, again on the left side
The flares are occurring at a higher rate than normal because of increased solar activity, according to a NASA official.
‘Increased numbers of flares are quite common at the moment, since the sun is near solar maximum,’ the astronomer explained.
‘Humans have tracked solar cycles continuously since they were discovered in 1843, and it is normal for there to be many flares a day during the sun’s peak activity,’ he added.
Another official then warned that there may be a geomagnetic storm near the north pole as more solar flares inch closer to Earth.
‘Earth’s magnetic field is about to receive a glancing blow from three CMEs observed leaving the sun between Oct. 20th and 22nd,’ according to SpaceWeather’s Tony Phillips.
‘Forecast models suggest that the three clouds merged en route to Earth, and their combined impact could trigger a mild polar geomagnetic storm on Oct. 24-25,’ Mr Phillips added.
Run by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, SpaceWeather believes the storm will be brief, but may cause minor issues with power grids and satellites between Friday and Monday.