NASA Shares Stunning Close-Up Of Sun Erupting Biggest Solar Flare In Half A Decade

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The Sun has been emitting some strong solar flares as of late, with one of the latest being the biggest in half a decade. The flare was classified as an X8.7, with X-class denoting the most intense flares, and the number providing more information about its strength.

According to the Space Weather Prediction Center, which monitors the Sun’s activity, a solar flare is an eruption of energy from the Sun that typically lasts minutes to hours. In order to put the strength of the X8.7 flare into perspective, it actually preceded two more intense solar flares, which were classified as X1.7 and X1.3, respectively.
The current solar cycle for Earth began in late 2019, with the previous solar cycle producing the 4th-smallest intensity since regular record keeping began in 1755. A solar cycle prediction panel estimated that the Sun’s peak sunspot activity would occur in 2025. With all the recent intense solar flares, however, that peak may be a little earlier than expected.

The Space Weather Prediction Center does not believe any coronal mass ejections (CMEs) associated with the X8.7 flare will have any geomagnetic impacts on Earth. There is still a chance, however, that the intense flare could effect high frequency radio signals, causing temporary degradation or complete loss of signal on much of the sunlit side of Earth.

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According to NASA, the current solar cycle is reaching its solar maximum, a period when eruptions like the most recent ones become more common. This leaves the door open to the possibility that the X8.7 flare will not be the strongest of the cycle before all is said and done.

For those who would like to keep track of when strong solar flares occur, such as the X8.7 flare, an excellent resource is the Space Weather Prediction Center website.