Monster belches: Sun produces most powerful solar flare in over decade (PHOTOS)
The sun started Wednesday with a bang, shooting out two solar flares, one of which was the strongest observed since 2005. Global communications and some GPS systems were temporarily affected on the sunny side of the Earth at the time.
The first flare peaked at approximately 5:10am EDT and the second, larger flare peaked at 8:02am EDT.
Thankfully, NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory watches the sun around the clock and was able to record these spectacular solar belches.
Solar flares are huge bursts of radiation released by the sun. Our atmosphere protects us from the worst effects of the resulting radiation storms but if the flare is big enough, it can disrupt GPS satellites, certain radio frequencies and other global communications temporarily.
The first flare was classified as an X2.2. The X-class are the most intense solar flares, with the number providing additional indications of their power.
The second flare was an X9.3, over four times as powerful as the first and the largest solar flare in the current 11-year solar cycle that began in December 2008.
The radio “blackout period” caused by the storm has already passed, affecting some high frequency radio and GPS communications for approximately one hour on the sunlit side of the Earth at the time of the event.
X-class solar flares are the largest explosions that take place within our solar system, shooting out jets of plasma that can reach up to 10 times the size of the Earth in length.