February 16, 2011

Sun Unleashes Strongest Flare In Four Years

Observers say that the Sun has unleashed its strongest flare in four years.

The eruption was an X-flare, which is the strongest type of flare that can affect communications on Earth.

NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) spacecraft recorded an intense flash of extreme ultraviolet radiation emanating from a sunspot.

The British Geological Survey (BGS) issued a geomagnetic storm warning and said that observers might be able to see auroras from the northern U.K.

The flare was recorded on February 13 and directed at the Earth.  According to NASA, the source of this activity is growing rapidly.

Preliminary data from the Stereo-B and Soho spacecraft suggests that the explosion produced a fast but not particularly bright coronal mass ejection (CME).

The unpredictable eruptions on the Sun can interfere with modern technology on Earth, like electrical power grids, communications systems and satellites.

The BGS released a rarely seen archive of geomagnetic records on Wednesday that provide insight into "space weather" stretching back to the Victorian era.

BGS scientists say that studies of solar storms in the past could inform the prediction of future space weather and help mitigate threats to national infrastructure.

Displays of the Northern Lights have been seen further south than usual in Northern Ireland and elsewhere in the U.K.  NASA also said that further solar activity is expected to be seen over the next few days.

Researchers said that the Sun has been awakening after a period of several years of low activity.


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