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Sun releases strongest flare in current cycle from same region that triggered auroras

Milky Way galaxy — After causing the dazzling waves of aurora borealis this weekend, our Sun isn’t done yet: The strongest solar flare of the current solar cycle occurred Tuesday afternoon, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Weather Prediction Center.

The flare – deemed an X8.7, with the X-class denoting the most intense flares possible – came from the same region that triggered the geomagnetic storm and stunning display of auroras, or Northern Lights, around the world. That storm was the most extreme geomagnetic storm since 2003, the center said.

“A flare is an eruption of energy from the Sun that generally lasts minutes to hours. Flares of this magnitude are not frequent,” the center noted.

Tuesday’s intense flash of ultraviolet light was photographed by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, which said the flare peaked at 12:51 p.m. ET.

Solar flares usually take place in active regions of the Sun that include the presence of strong magnetic fields. They can impact radio, power grids and communications. Users of high frequency radio signals may experience temporary or complete loss of signal.

However, due to the Sun’s rotation, the sun spot in question is no longer directing this energy in the Earth’s direction, which will minimize impacts.

Flares can also pose threats to astronauts and spacecraft – though NASA found there was no risk to astronauts aboard the International Space Station last week.

Scientists on Friday issued a severe geomagnetic storm watch for the first time in nearly 20 years, advising people to prepare for power outages during last week’s solar storm. The White House was also tracking the event for any potential impacts.

“The Sun’s activity waxes and wanes over an 11-year period known as the solar cycle,” the Solar Dynamics Observatory said on X. “Solar cycle 25 began in December 2019 and is now approaching solar maximum — a period when eruptions like this one become more common.”

This cycle will reach its peak between late 2024 and early 2025. Researchers have been seeing more intense solar flares as we inch closer to the cycle’s end.

Copyright CNN

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