Solar storm warning! Fearsome Earth-facing sunspot could unleash X-class solar flares!
A solar storm warning has just been released. Earth is in the firing line of a terrifying M-class and X-class solar flares that could be unleashed by an unstable active region on the surface of the Sun.
Solar flares have been frequent in these past few months and as we move towards the solar maximum, the chances of solar storms striking Earth increase. Solar flares, CMEs, and geomagnetic storms can disrupt the power grid, shut down radio communications and even destroy satellites! A solar storm that is strong enough can even destroy the Internet. According to NASA, solar flares impact Earth only when they occur on the side of the sun facing Earth. Because flares are made of photons, they travel out directly from the flare site, so if we can see the flare, we can be impacted by it.
Now, another Earth-facing sunspot could unleash powerful solar flares that may have serious potential to wreak havoc.
According to a report by spaceweather.com, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has forecasted that an active region on the Sun's surface named sunspot AR3361 has an unstable ‘beta-gamma-delta' magnetic field which could result in strong explosions on the solar surface. This sunspot could hurl out dangerous solar flares directly towards Earth. NOAA reports there is a 40 percent chance of M-class solar flares and a 5 percent chance of X-class flares being hurled out! These flares will directly impact Earth as the sunspot is facing us.
The report states, “NOAA forecasters have increased the odds of a flare today (40% M-class, 5% X-class) in response to developments inside sunspot AR3361. Any flares will be geoeffective as the sunspot is directly facing Earth.”
Rating solar flares
According to NASA, solar flares are classified according to their strength on the logarithmic scale, similar to how earthquakes are measured. The smallest ones are A-class which occur at near background levels, followed by B, C, M, and X. Similar to the Richter scale that is used for measuring earthquakes, each letter on the logarithmic scale represents a 10-fold increase in energy output. So an X is 10 times an M and 100 times a C. Within each letter class there is a finer scale from 1 to 9.
X-class solar flares are known to be the most powerful solar flares, with as much energy as a billion hydrogen bombs! Not only these flares can cause radio and power blackouts, but also give small doses of radiation to the people flying in airplanes at the time!
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