A giant sunspot keeps shooting solar flares out into space. It is the largest flare that has been on the surface of the Sun in over 20 years and sent out the latest one on Oct. 24. That was the fourth solar storm which had come from the Earth’s personal star in less than seven days.
The solar flare happened early Friday evening, hitting its peak at 5:42 p.m. EDT. It generated a powerful radio blackout at that time, noted the United States Space Weather Center. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory was able to capture some amazing photographs of the gigantic solar blaze.
The flare exploded out of the giant sunspot which is labeled as AR 12192 and has been categorized as an X 3 class solar storm. Those are considered one of the strongest types of solar storms which happen on the Sun. It is also not the only time this specific sunspot has made its existence be known.
It is the fourth significant flare from this giant sunspot that has occurred since Oct. 19. It was on that Sunday that the sunspot sent up the first X 1 solar flare, which was then followed by a very intense M 8 class flare on Wednesday, Oct. 22. M class flares are not as powerful as X class events. Later that same day, the Sun sent out an X 2 flare.
Sunspots are parts of the Sun created by unstable magnetic fields that happen to be cooler than their adjacent solar regions and so they are darker. Sunspot AR 12192 is equivalent to Jupiter in how big it is. This particular sunspot is the biggest one since November of 1990, and is greater than a monstrous sunspot that produced a series of solar flares that occurred during the week before Halloween in 2003.
On Oct. 23, the sunspot was tough to miss while the partial solar eclipse was happening in North America. Several viewers who were able to get photographs of the eclipse were surprised that they were able to see the giant sunspot on the Sun’s surface.
X class solar flares are considered to be the strongest eruptions on the Sun. If they are aimed straight at Earth, X flares can hypothetically pose dangers to spacecraft and also astronauts out in space. They can also hinder any communication signals. M class flares are considered to be moderate sun storms that might amplify the Earth’s aurora presentations. There can be even more fragile solar storm classes that have little to no effect on Earth, which include C class, B class and A class.
X class solar storms may release gigantic amounts of power. “An X 2 is twice as powerful as an X 1, an X 3 is three times as forceful, and the list goes on. Even with its power, the X 3 flare that occurred Friday was not the largest sun storm this year. On Feb. 24, the Sun sent out a massive X 5 solar flare that topped the solar happenings of 2014. There were smaller X class flares that happened occasionally all through the rest of the year from the giant sunspot.
By Kimberly Ruble
Photo by Orlando Sorensen – Flickr License