Science

Sun Spews Strongest Solar Flare Of 2013

By Pierre Dumont , May 13, 2013 10:56 AM EDT
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A giant solar flare erupted from the sun on Sunday May 12, the most powerful solar flare to take place so far this year.

The solar flare peaked at 10:17 p.m. EDT and was captured by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory. The flare from the sun registered as an X1.7-class eruption, which is the strongest type of solar flare the sun can emit. This makes the flare the first X-class solar flare of 2013. The flare was accompanied by a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME). After the eruption, an hour-long high-frequency radio blackout occurred, according to the Space Weather Prediction Center overseen by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association.

"No planets were in the line of fire," astronomer Tony Phillips wrote on Spaceweather.com, which tracks skywatching events and space weather. "The sunspot that produced this blast is on the far side of the sun. Soon, in a few days, it will turn toward Earth, emerging into view over the sun's eastern limb."

If an eruption from the sun heads toward Earth, satellites and space vehicles like the International Space Station can be put at risk. In some cases, communications on Earth can be affected. People on Earth often welcome solar flare because of the way in which they charge the northern lights via solar particles.

The sun is currently experiencing an increased number of solar flares as it approaches its solar maximum, which is expected to take place in 2013. The largest X-class flare of the sun's current 11-year cycle took place on August 9, 2011.

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