A fourth major sun flare within 48 hours was unleashed by a single sunspot giving birth to aÂ solar storm, categorized at Class X flare the most powerful type, heading towards earth. The storm that erupted on Tuesday has hurled a massive cloud of charged particles out into space at millions of miles an hour.
Though the storm is not expected to pose any direct threat to the earth or the earthlings it might cause temporarily disruption of GPS navigation, satellite communications and power grids. Even though the flare was incredibly powerful, it was weakest of the four rapid-fire X flares, clocking in at X1.2. The previous three registered as X1.7, X2.8 and X3.2 flares, respectively. Those three occurred while the Sunspot AR1748, about twice the size of Earth and currently located on the sun’s extreme left side, was facing away from Earth, however, so they did not affect our planet.
The strong solar flares are basically categorized in three sections, with C being the weakest, M intermediate and X the most powerful. X-class flares can cause long-lasting radiation storms in Earthâ€™s upper atmosphere and trigger radio blackouts. M flares can cause brief radio blackouts in the Polar Regions and occasional minor radiation storms, while C flares have few noticeable consequences. Strong solar flares can also supercharge Earthâ€™s auroras, creating dazzling northern lights displays.
The frequent solar flares are being caused due to the sun being in an active period of its 11-year solar weather cycle which is expected to reach peak activity later this year. The current cycle, known as Solar Cycle 24, began in 2008. It may be mentioned that the scientists have been tracking sunspots, solar flares and other space weather events since they were first discovered in 1843.
According to solar astrophysicist C. Alex Young at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, the sunspot will likely be facing Earth by this weekend. He said: “In a couple of days, it will be far enough onto the disk that any CMEs that we got would probably have some impact on Earth.”
Astronomer Tony Phillips wrote on Spaceweather.com, a website that tracks skywatching and space weather events: â€œSpace weather forecasters with the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmosperic Administration â€œestimate a 40 percent chance of polar geomagnetic storms when the cloud arrives. High-latitude skywatchers should be alert for auroras tonight.â€