Sun blasts out three flares in 24 hours
Solar flare bonanza! The Sun has
emitted the third significant solar flare within 24 hours, the
strongest X-class flare this year so far.
The flare, classified as an X3.2 flare, surpassed in
strength the two flares that occurred earlier in the 24-hour
The flare was also associated with a coronal mass
ejection, or CME. However, CME was not Earth-directed.
Experimental NASA research models show that the CME left
the Sun at approximately 2,253 km per second, which is
particularly fast for a CME.
The models suggest that it will catch up to the two CMEs
associated with the earlier flares. The merged cloud of solar
material will pass by the Spitzer spacecraft and may give a
glancing blow to the STEREO-B and Epoxi spacecraft.
Their mission operators have been notified. If warranted,
operators can put spacecraft into safe mode to protect the
instruments from solar material.
The X2.8-class flare was also associated with a coronal
mass ejection, or CME, another solar phenomenon that can send
billions of tons of solar particles into space, which can
potentially affect electronic systems in satellites and on the
The second-strongest was an X5.4 event on March 7, 2012.
The strongest was an X6.9 on August 9, 2011.
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 the atmosphere in the layer
where GPS and communications signals travel.
This disrupts the radio signals for as long as the flare
is ongoing - the radio blackout associated with this flare has