NASA captures images of high intensity solar flares

Biggest flare in two decades

The sunny side of planet Earth had all of its Global Positioning System communications temporarily knocked out Wednesday after the sun emitted two massive solar flares, showering the planet with radiation storms. Of the two, the latter was the strongest solar flare we've observed from the Sun since one that occurred December 5, 2006.

"Flash has already given the deterioration in the quality of connections in Europe and America", - said the expert.

Unfortunately, the solar flares come at a bit of an inopportune time for those of us on Earth (and especially in the US), as many are relying on weather satellites to continue monitoring Hurricane Irma and other Atlantic-based storms.

Actually, it spat out two X-class flares, on the morning of 6 September EDT. "We're not having X-flares every day for a week, for instance - the activity is less frequent, but no less potentially strong". That watch remains in effect through Saturday.

Solar storms can make satellites and power grids on Earth go a little wonky. Solar storms result from an accumulation of magnetic energy in some places. Particularly intense magnetic storms on the sun's surface can send huge clouds of plasma called coronal mass ejections (CMEs), which take up to three days to reach Earth. The last time an X9 struck the Earth was almost 10 years ago, causing widespread radio blackouts. These jets of ionized matter are projected at high speed in and beyond the crown of the sun, to hundreds of thousands of kilometers altitude.

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If Earth is in the CME's path, the particles interact with our magnetic field.

In addition to handsome auroras, the geomagnetic storm could disrupt communications, as well as damage satellites and power grids.

M-class flares may cause brief radio blackouts in polar regions and minor concern for any orbiting astronauts. An X20 flare was recorded in April of 2001.

"(The flare) was accompanied by radio emissions that suggest there's a potential for a CME", Space Weather Prediction Center scientist Rob Steenburgh told "However, we have to wait until we get some coronagraph imagery that would capture that event for a definitive answer". X is the most powerful class.

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