Largest Solar Flare of 2013 Blasts From Sun on Mothers Day
Even the Sun wanted to mark the occasion on Mother Day.
The most powerful solar flare of 2013 blasted away from our Sun this mothers day at 10:17 p.m. EDT (0217 GMT) and was captured on camera by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory. The flare sparked an hour-long high-frequency radio blackout, according to officials at the Space Weather Prediction Center overseen by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Scientists classified the late night Mother's Day solar flare as an X1.7-class sun eruption, which is the strongest type of solar flare the sun can fire off.
An X-class solar flare can pose a danger to astronauts and satellites if aimed directly at the planet. A solar flare of that magnitude also has the potential to interfere with communications and GPS signals on the ground. Such solar flares can also super-charge Earth's northern lights displays by bombarding the planet with solar particles, triggering aurora light shows.
Sunday's solar flare however, erupted from an active sunspot on the far side of the sun-meaning planet Earth was not in the direct line of fire when the flare erupted.
"No planets were in the line of fire," astronomer Tony Phillips wrote on his website Spaceweather.com, which tracks space weather and sky watching events. "The sunspot that produced this blast is on the far side of the sun."
Sunday's eruption was by far the strongest solar flare of 2013. This is not surprising, as the sun is heading into the peak of its 11-year weather cycle later this year.
Until the Sunday event, every solar flare had been a M-class solar flare or weaker. In 2012, the sun fired off a series of X-class flares, including a massive X5.4 solar flare. An even larger X6.9 solar flare in 2011 marked the strongest solar storm in five years at that time. The current sun cycle, called Solar Cycle 24, began in 2008 and is expected to run through 2019-2020.