TECH

The Biggest Solar Flare In A Decade Hit Earth And This Could Just Be The Start

*Grabs helmet*

08/09/2017 11:22 | Updated 08 September 2017

Just in case this month hasn’t seen mother nature causing enough destruction here on Earth, our solar system has decided to join in the assault as well.

The sun has fired at least five sizeable solar flares towards our planet since 4 September, eventually culminating in the largest flare observed by NASA since December 2008.

Solar flares are caused by massive releases of energy on the Sun’s surface, which eject clouds of electrons, ions and atoms.

They are powerful bursts of radiation that are then catapulted through space at high speed, and are important for humans to observe because when they are strong enough they disturb our atmosphere.

Watching on the morning of Wednesday 6 September, the space agency’s ‘Solar Dynamics Observatory’ captured images of a particularly active region on the sun firing off the fourth and fifth “sizeable” flares in the last week.

The first caught on camera by the team peaked at 6.15am (Eastern Standard Time) and was classified as an M7.3 flare, and the second one peaked at 10.36 (EST) and was an X1.3.

These official classifications denote the intensity and size of a flare - X class is the strongest possible categorisation and M class is about 10% the size of X.

Although the flare was the largest so far in the current 11-year-solar cycle, NASA reassured people that the harmful radiation from a flare cannot pass through Earth’s atmosphere to physically affect humans on the ground.

But it can disturb the atmosphere in the layer where GPS and communications signals travel, something that NASA said was felt as a high-frequency radio blackout, that lasted for about an hour on Wednesday.

And it might not be finished yet.

Back in 2013 a rogue solar flare made an attempt to escape the sun’s gravitational field and move towards Earth, as seen above, but did not prevail. 

It didn’t quite have enough velocity to escape the clutches of the Sun’s gravitational field and only the plasma at the very tip broke free, resulting in some fascinating images.

NASA
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