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The Sun Just Released the Most Powerful Flare of this Solar Cycle

The Sun released two significant solar flares on Sept. 6, including one that clocked in as the most powerful flare of the current solar cycle.

The solar cycle is the approximately 11-year-cycle during which the Sun’s activity waxes and wanes. The current solar cycle began in December 2008 and is now decreasing in intensity and heading toward solar minimum, expected in 2019-2020. Solar minimum is a phase when solar eruptions are increasingly rare, but history has shown that they can nonetheless be intense.

Footage of the Sept. 6 X2.2 and X9.3 solar flares captured by the Solar Dynamics Observatory in extreme ultraviolet light (131 angstrom wavelength)

Our Solar Dynamics Observatory satellite, which watches the Sun constantly, captured images of both X-class flares on Sept. 6.

Solar flares are classified according to their strength. X-class denotes the most intense flares, followed by M-class, while the smallest flares are labeled as A-class (near background levels) with two more levels in between. Similar to the Richter scale for earthquakes, each of the five levels of letters represents a 10-fold increase in energy output. 

The first flare peaked at 5:10 a.m. EDT, while the second, larger flare, peaked at 8:02 a.m. EDT.

Footage of the Sept. 6 X2.2 and X9.3 solar flares captured by the Solar Dynamics Observatory in extreme ultraviolet light (171 angstrom wavelength) with Earth for scale

Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation. Harmful radiation from a flare cannot pass through Earth’s atmosphere to physically affect humans on the ground, however — when intense enough — they can disturb Earth’s atmosphere in the layer where GPS and communications signals travel.

Both Sept. 6 flares erupted from an active region labeled AR 2673. This area also produced a mid-level solar flare on Sept. 4, 2017. This flare peaked at 4:33 p.m. EDT, and was about a tenth the strength of X-class flares like those measured on Sept. 6.

Footage of the Sept. 4 M5.5 solar flare captured by the Solar Dynamics Observatory in extreme ultraviolet light (131 angstrom wavelength)

This active region continues to produce significant solar flares. There were two flares on the morning of Sept. 7 as well. 

For the latest updates and to see how these events may affect Earth, please visit NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center at http://spaceweather.gov, the U.S. government’s official source for space weather forecasts, alerts, watches and warnings.

Follow @NASASun on Twitter and NASA Sun Science on Facebook to keep up with all the latest in space weather research.

Make sure to follow us on Tumblr for your regular dose of space: http://nasa.tumblr.com.

Our sun is dynamic and ever-changing. On Friday, July 14, a solar flare and a coronal mass ejection erupted from the same, large active region. The coils arcing over this active region are particles spiraling along magnetic field lines.

Solar flares are explosions on the sun that send energy, light and high-speed particles into space. Such flares are often associated with solar magnetic storms known as coronal mass ejections. While these are the most common solar events, the sun can also emit streams of very fast protons – known as solar energetic particle (SEP) events – and disturbances in the solar wind known as corotating interaction regions (CIRs).

Learn more HERE.

Make sure to follow us on Tumblr for your regular dose of space: http://nasa.tumblr.com

  • Team Rocket: We're gonna steal everyone's Pokemon!
  • Team Aqua: We plan to flood the entire world!
  • Team Magma: Fuck those guys. We're getting rid of all the water in the world!
  • Team Galactic: What do you say to completely destroying and then recreating the entire universe?
  • Team Plasma: We're going to awaken the legendary dragons and use them to destroy the world.
  • Team Flare: Everybody and everything is going to be killed off forever except for us.
  • Team Skull: lmao what up dude we have rap wanna join