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Excerpt from dailytimes.com.pk
The sun has unleashed its most powerful flare of the year causing radio blackouts throughout the Pacific region.
The enormous X-class solar flare peaked at 6:11pm ET yesterday from a sunspot called Active Region 2339 (AR2339).
Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation that, when intense enough, can disturb the atmosphere in the layer where GPS and communications signals travel - and scientists say they could get more powerful in the future.
This latest flare is classified as an X2.7. X-class denotes the most intense flares, while the number provides more information about its strength.
Despite the recent radio blackouts, scientists say the flare is unlikely to cause any further major issues here on Earth.
‘Given the impulsive nature of this event, as well as the source location on the eastern limb of the sun, we are not expecting a radiation storm at Earth,’ scientists with the U.S. Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) in Boulder, Colorado.
‘We will be on the lookout for new imagery from the Nasa Soho [Solar and Heliospheric Observatory] mission to determine if there was an associated coronal mass ejection (CME) with this event,’ they added.
‘Given the same logic above, however, we do not expect there to be one that would impact Earth.’
Yesterday Kazunari Shibata, an astrophysicist from Kyoto University in Japan, said the sun has the potential to unleash a flare of such a magnitude that it would be larger than anything humans have ever seen.
At the Space Weather Workshop in Colorado, Shibata said ‘superflares,’ that contain energy 1,000 times larger than what we have seen could be on their way.
He said there is evidence of this happening every 800 to 5,000 years on Earth,
Scientists say such a solar ‘super-storm’ would pose a ‘catastrophic’ and ‘long-lasting’ threat to life on Earth.
A superflare would induce huge surges of electrical currents in the ground and in overhead transmission lines, causing widespread power outages and severely damaging critical electrical components.
The largest ever solar super-storm on record occurred in 1859 and is known as the Carrington Event, named after the English astronomer Richard Carrington who spotted the preceding solar flare.
This massive CME released about 1022 kJ of energy - the equivalent to 10 billion Hiroshima bombs exploding at the same time - and hurled around a trillion kilos of charged particles towards the Earth at speeds of up to 3000 km/s.
However, its impact on the human population was relatively benign as our electronic infrastructure at the time amounted to no more than about 124,000 miles (200,000 km) of telegraph lines.
Nasa has also released incredible footage showing the sun unleashing a huge lick of plasma that increased the star’s visible hemisphere by almost half.
The solar filament, which exploded on April 28 and 29, was suspended above the sun due to strong magnetic fields that pushed outwards.
Solar astronomers around the world had their eyes on this unusually large filament and kept track as it erupted.
Nasa’s animation involves images taken from the orbiting Solar and Heliospheric Observatory using its Large Angle Spectrometric Coronagraph.
The diameter of the animation is about 30 million miles (45 million km) at the distance of the sun, or half of the diameter of the orbit of Mercury.
The white circle in the centre of the round disk represents the size of the sun, which is being blocked by the telescope in order to see the fainter material around it.