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The biggest sunspot in over 20 years has just unleashed a major flare on Friday, during the fourth intense solar storm from our solar system’s star in less than a week.
Occurring on Friday afternoon, the solar flare reached its peak at 5:42 PM EDT, causing a radio blackout according to the United States Space weather Prediction Center. In the meantime, NASA’s sun-watching Solar Dynamics Observatory was capturing stunning footage of the huge solar flare.
Known as AR 12192, the giant active sunspot on the Sun’s surface was where the flare erupted from. It was classified as an X3.1 class solar storm, which is one of the most powerful types of storms to take place on the sun. This is not the first time that AR 12192 has made its presence known.
“This is the fourth substantial flare from this active region since Oct. 19,”
Karen Fox, NASA spokesperson announced in a status update.
On the day Fox mentioned, October 19th, a X1.1-class solar flare took place and was followed closely by a M8.7-class flare three days later, which in turn was followed by an X1.6 event later that same day.
The sunspot in question, AR 12192, matches Jupiter in size and thus dwarfs the Earth, solar astrophysicist C. Alex Young claims. The NASA Goddard Space Flight Center astrophysicist described the sunspot several times. According to Young’s accounts, AR 12192 is the largest sunspot since November 1990, even larger than the monster sunspot that had caused a series of large solar flares in 2003, during Halloween.
During the October 23rd spectacular partial solar eclipse, the sunspot was in perfect view of cameras, so that many sky watchers could capture breathtaking images of the giant sunspot.
“This was my first time photographing a solar eclipse and I was thrilled to capture the sunspots as well,”
Mark Ezell, Austin, Texas, said.
“Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation. Harmful radiation from a flare cannot pass through Earth’s atmosphere to physically affect humans on the ground, however — when intense enough — they can disturb the atmosphere in the layer where GPS and communications signals travel.”
a NASA update on solar flares said.
X-class solar flares represent the most powerful of eruptions, which, when aimed directly at our planet, can potentially cause navigation interference, radio and communication signals interferences as well as potentially harm astronauts and spacecrafts in space.
“An X2 is twice as intense as an X1, an X3 is three times as intense, etc.,”
the same NASA update said.