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NASA's SDO snaps strongest solar flare since 2017, sparking radio blackouts on Earth

NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory (NASA SDO) captured the strongest solar flare since 2017 on December 31, 2023, originating from the same sunspot that produced a flare on December 14. Check details.

Updated on: Jan 03 2024, 17:22 IST
NASA SDO captured the solar flare on December 31. Know details. (NASA/SDO)

Slowly and steadily, solar activity has been on the rise after a brief lull. In the last few months, we’ve witnessed a growing number of solar flares, and solar storms, all of which have been linked to the current solar cycle. For the unaware, the solar cycle is an 11-year period during which the Sun’s activity crests and troughs. According to scientists, the solar cycle 25 will enter the peak of solar maximum in mid-2024, and it has already exceeded the predicted number of sunspots. However, the solar activity isn’t likely to decrease anytime soon, and a stark reminder of the Sun’s might was witnessed on December 31, 2023, as the strongest solar flare since 2017 was recorded by NASA. Check details.

Solar flare

According to NASA, the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) captured the strongest solar flare since 2017 on December 31 at 4:55 p.m. EST. The recorded flare measured X5.0 in intensity. Interestingly, NASA revealed that it originated from the same sunspot that hurled out an X2.8 solar flare on December 14.

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This solar flare also caused an “R3 Strong Radio Blackout”, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. It was the strongest solar flare recorded since the X8.2 flare which was captured on September 10, 2017.

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X-class solar flares: Are they dangerous?

X-class solar flares can create radiation storms which have the potential to not only harm the satellites but also give small doses of radiation to the people flying in airplanes at the time! Moreover, these devastating flares can disrupt global communications and bring down the power grids to create blackouts.

If the X-class flares are too strong, they can result in loops that are ten times as big as Earth which leaps off the Sun’s surface as the magnetic fields cross over, according to NASA. When these loops reconnect, they can produce as much energy as a billion hydrogen bombs!

The Sun entered solar cycle 25 in 2019 and it is expected that it will hit its peak between 2024-2025. And this is the main reason why the Sun has suddenly become so violent.

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First Published Date: 03 Jan, 17:22 IST