The Sun Hurls its Most Powerful Flare in a Decades

The Sun

The Sun has been vying for attention these last couple of weeks. First with the appearance of a fabulous complex sunspot region and then with a plethora of solar flares. On the 14th May, yet another was released, this time an X8.7 class flare from the same complex sunspot regions. It was significantly more powerful than the flare that set off the aurora displays which enchanted much of the planet but alas it was not pointing toward the Earth ( 🙁 sad emoji face.) Even though it was not directed at us, it could still disrupt communications and electronics but is a reminder that the Sun, whilst is on its way to solar maximum still has lots to give.

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Solar Max is Coming. The Sun Just Released Three X-Class Flares

NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory captured these images of the solar flares — as seen in the bright flashes in the upper right — on May 5 and May 6, 2024. The image shows a subset of extreme ultraviolet light that highlights the extremely hot material in flares and which is colorized in teal. Credit: NASA/SDO

The Sun is increasing its intensity on schedule, continuing its approach to solar maximum. In just over a 24-hour period on May 5 and May 6, 2024, the Sun released three X-class solar flares measuring at X1.3, X1.2, and X4.5. Solar flares can impact radio communications and electric power grids here on Earth, and they also pose a risk to spacecraft and astronauts in space.

NASA released an animation that shows the solar flares blasting off the surface of the rotating Sun, below.

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The Sun Gets Feisty, Throwing Off Three X-Class Flares Within 24 Hours

Sunspot region 3590 which is located at a fairly high latitude produced two impulsive X-class events. The first solar flare peaked yesterday at 23:07 UTC with a maximum X-ray flux of X1.9 and the second solar flare peaked today at 06:32 with a maximum observed X-ray flux of X1.7. Both events caused a brief strong R3 radio blackout at the day-side of our planet.

The Sun is heading toward solar maximum (which is likely to be about a year away) and as it does, there will be more sunspots, solar flares and coronal mass ejections. Over the last 24 hours there has been three, yes three X-class flares, the first peaking at X1.9, the second 1.7 and the final one a mighty 6.3. Flares of this magnitude caused radio blackouts, disruption to mobile phones and radio transmissions.  

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We Just had the Strongest Solar Flare in the Current Solar Cycle

A solar flare erupts on the Sun. Credit: NASA/GSFC/SDO
A solar flare erupts on the Sun. Credit: NASA/GSFC/SDO

On December 14th, at 12:02 PM Eastern (09:02 AM Pacific), the Sun unleashed a massive solar flare. According to the Space Weather Prediction Center, part of the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), this was the strongest flare of Solar Cycle 25, which began in 2019 and will continue until 2030. What’s more, scientists at the SWPC estimate that this may be one of the most powerful solar flares recorded since 1755 when extensive recording of solar sunspot activity began.

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A Monster Solar Storm Struck Earth 14,300 Years Ago

Illustration of a solar flare striking Earth. Credit: NASA

The Sun is such a stable presence in our lives that we often take it for granted. Few things are as certain sure as the rising of the Sun each morning, and the cycles of the seasons mark the years of our lives. But the Sun is a star, and stars can sometimes be unpredictable. They can emit powerful solar flares and powerful X-rays. With our deep dependence on technology and electricity, the Sun poses a small but real risk to our civilization. As a recent study shows, the Sun has had some extremely powerful flares in recent cosmic times.

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The Sun Continues its Journey to Solar Maximum, Releasing X-Class Flares

NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory captured this image of a solar flare – as seen in the bright flash in the center-left– on Feb. 11, 2023. The image shows a subset of extreme ultraviolet light that highlights the extremely hot material in flares, and which is colorized in red and orange. Credit: NASA/SDO

The Sun belted out strong solar flares two days in a row, as activity ramps up toward the next Solar Maximum, predicted for mid-2025.

On Saturday, February 11, a flare classified as X1.1 erupted from the Sun, while just a day before a different region on the Sun blasted out a X1.0 flare.

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Astronomers See Flashes on the Sun That Could be a Sign of an Upcoming Flare

A moderate solar flare erupts on the sun July 8, 2014 in this image from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory. Credit: NASA/SDO

Using data from the Solar Dynamics Observatory, scientists have discovered new clues that could help predict when and where the next solar flare might blast from the Sun.

Researchers were able to identify small flashes in the upper layers of the corona – the Sun’s atmosphere – found above regions that would later flare in energetic bursts of light and particles released from the Sun. The scientists compared the flashes to small sparklers before the big fireworks.

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Planetary Interiors in TRAPPIST-1 System Could be Affected by Stellar Flares

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

In a recent study published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters, an international team of researchers led by the University of Cologne in Germany examined how stellar flares and coronal mass ejections (CMEs) erupted by the TRAPPIST-1 star could affect the interior heating of its orbiting exoplanets. This study holds the potential to help us better understand how solar flares affect planetary evolution. The TRAPPIST-1 system is an exolanetary system located approximately 39 light-years from Earth with at least seven potentially rocky exoplanets in orbit around a star that has 12 times less mass than our own Sun. Since the parent star is much smaller than our own Sun, then the the planetary orbits within the TRAPPIST-1 system are much smaller than our own solar system, as well. So, how can this study help us better understand the potential habitability of planets in the TRAPPIST-1 system?

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The Sun Could Hurl Powerful Storms at Earth From its Goofy Smile

NASA recently photographed the Sun "smiling" (Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center/Solar Dynamics Observatory)

Our Sun is the very reason we’re alive. It provides warmth and the energy our planet needs to keep going. Now you can add photogenic to its illustrious résumé, as NASA recently photographed our giant ball of nuclear fusion doing something quite peculiar.

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Solar Orbiter Records a Stunning Timelapse of Solar Activity as it Completes its Latest Flyby

The darker area on this image of the Sun's surface is the southern extension of the northern hemisphere polar corona. The coronal hole is a source of fast-moving streams of particles from the Sun, which can cause auroras here on Earth. Image: NASA/SDO

The sun is currently sleeping. Its surface and corona are relatively quiet as it prepares to ramp up for an expected phase of high activity in 2025. This past October, the ESA’s Solar Orbiter was able to sneak in a close-up peak at the Sun as it slumbers.

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