Sun emits massive X-class solar flare

While you may have thought that Crew-6’s takeoff to the International Space Station was the biggest bang this week, the Sun decided to go out with a superpowerful X-class flare, and NASA got it all on video.

Solar flares — intense bursts of high-energy radiation — can impact high-frequency (HF) radio communications, electric power grids, and even pose serious risks to astronaut safety onboard the International Space Station.

Scientists classify flares according to their X-ray brightness (a range of 1 to 8 Angstroms) and, more importantly, by intensity which is signified with a letter; A, B, C, M, or X. A being the littlest and X being the most powerful bursts.

On Friday at 12:52 p.m. EST, a flare erupted on the surface of the Sun. It registered as an X2.1, NASA stated.

Powerful flares, like the one today, are generally followed by coronal mass ejections (CMEs), which are huge clouds of plasma that hurdle through space at millions of miles per hour. These, you guessed it, can also cause serious problems for Earth, i.e. radio disruption and everything mentioned above.

At this moment, it’s unclear if any CMEs did erupt in tandem with Friday’s X2.1 flare. We’ll update this story as it develops.

These images are from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory of the solar flare that occurred on March 3rd. Visible as a bright flash on the upper right. Don’t blink.

Activity on the sun picks up and dips on an 11-year cycle. Currently, we’re in Solar Cycle 25, the 25th since extensive studying of solar activity began. Cycle 25 began in December 2019 and is expected to continue until about 2030.

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