Solar flares 2013: Class X storm may affect GPS, satellites in days to come

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    Though it may not make any huge impact on earth, but solar flares 2013 of class X intensity may affect GPS, satellites in days to come

    Sun is becoming more and more active this year and this is the reason that we have been witnessing one solar flare after the other. To be true every solar flare or solar storm seems to be more powerful than the other in intensity. For the last two years sun has become very active after remaining dormant for years and there are reports that this will continue for the next few years.

    The latest flares are of the highest intensity and there is no reason to believe that the intensity will subside in the immediate future. The latest solar storm, the fourth in a short period of time was categorized as Class X flare that experts say is the most intense of all flares.

    Experts in NASA and other space institutes across the world are of the opinion that these solar flares don’t pose much threat to the earth, but its real impact will be visible only in the long term. There are also fears that the solar storm may actually 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.

    Experts in NASA after years of study have 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 Earth’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 Earth’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.

    In the meantime more details are coming out slowly about the solar flares in the coming days. 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: “Space weather forecasters with the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmosperic Administration “estimate a 40 percent chance of polar geomagnetic storms when the cloud arrives. High-latitude skywatchers should be alert for auroras tonight.”