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ScienceSpace

Solar Flare Caused A Radio Blackout Today, X-Class Solar Flare Erupted Monday, October 22

 
A powerful X-Class solar flare exploded from the Sun on Monday, October 22, 2012. It released large amounts of radiation, some of which has already caused a minor radio blackout here on Earth.

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The solar flare was released from the sunspot AR 11598, and hit its peak brightness at 11:22 p.m. EDT (0322 GMT this morning, Oct. 23), according to researchers at NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO). The SDO is a space telescope that keeps its high-definition eyes permanently fixed on the Sun.

The flare registered as a X1.8. The X-Class is the strongest category, but 1.8 is weak for the category. Such solar flares are capable of causing many problems for astronauts, satellites, and the electrical grid.


 
The sunspot that released this latest flare has already released four strong flares now in just the last two days. “This means more flares are probably in the offing, and they will become increasingly Earth-directed as the sunspot turns toward our planet in the days ahead,” astronomer Tony Phillips wrote on Spaceweather.com.

“Solar flares are caused when magnetic activity ramps up in certain patches, called sunspots, on the surface of our star. Scientists measure the strength of solar flares in terms of energy classes, with X-class flares the most powerful sun storms. Moderate flares rank as class M storms and can supercharge Earth’s northern lights displays when aimed at our planet. Class C solar flares are the weakest of the bunch and have little effect on the Earth.”

This recent solar flare has been categorized as a short-lived solar eruption, an impulsive flare.

“Impulsive flares aren’t generally associated with severe space weather, and additionally, this region is still several days away from directly facing Earth from center disk,” SWPC officials wrote. “Nonetheless, the potential for continued activity remains, so stay tuned for updates as Region 1598 makes its way across the visible disk.”

Solar flares are regularly accompanied by large ‘bubbles’ of charged plasma, named coronal mass ejections. It’s these that are responsible for the brunt of disrupted radio communication and electrical grids. And also for causing auroras.

This flare didn’t release a coronal mass ejection, but the radiation it released was powerful enough on its own to temporarily disrupt radios on the Earth last night.

“The sun is getting more and more active lately as it approaches an expected peak of magnetic activity in 2013. This activity naturally waxes and wanes on an 11-year weather pattern. The sun’s current cycle is called Solar Cycle 24.”

Source: Space
Image Credits: SDO/NASA




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