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Sun unleashes massive solar flare

WASHINGTON (BNS): The Sun has unleashed a massive solar flare which is heading towards Earth and could disrupt satellite communications.

NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) detected the gigantic solar flare on Tuesday that started at 0748 GMT and picked at 0805 GMT.

The solar explosion, which NASA rated as the most powerful X-class flare, burst from sun spot region AR11263.

“These gigantic bursts of radiation cannot pass through Earth’s atmosphere to harm humans on the ground, however, they can disrupt the atmosphere and disrupt GPS and communications signals.

“In this case, it appears the flare is strong enough to potentially cause some radio communication blackouts. It also produced increased solar energetic proton radiation – enough to affect humans in space if they do not protect themselves,” the space agency said.

Tuesday’s solar flare also triggered a coronal mass ejection (CME). A CME is a solar magnetic storm associated with solar flare that can send solar particles into space and affect electronic systems in satellites and on Earth.

When Earth-bound, a solar flare and the associated CMEs can create long lasting radiation storms that can harm satellites, communications systems, and even ground-based technologies and power grids.

“However, this CME is not traveling toward Earth, so no Earth-bound effects are expected,” NASA said.

Another X-class massive flare had occurred in the Sun on December 5 and December 6, 2006 that had resulted in a coronal mass ejection which interrupted GPS signals being sent to ground-based receivers.

The most powerful solar flare measured with modern methods was in 2003, during the last solar maximum. The flare was so powerful that it overloaded the sensors measuring it.

As the number of solar flare increases every 11 years when the Sun moves to solar maximum phase, more such phenomenon may occur by 2013, NASA said.


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