The Sun just let out its most powerful flare in the last five years

Luckily, it didn't head toward the Earth.
Ameya Paleja
NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory captured this image of a solar flare – as seen in the bright flash in the lower right portion of the image– at 11:57 p.m. EST on April 19, 2022.NASA/SDO

The Sun sent out one of its most powerful solar flares in the last five years, late on Tuesday evening, at 8:57 p.m. PT, CNET reported.

This is the second major flare that has left the Solar atmosphere this week after another powerful flare erupted over the Easter weekend. As we had reported last time around, the Sun has entered an active phase of its 11-year solar weather cycle, and we are likely to see an increase in the number of flares and their intensity in the near future.

Why track solar flares? 

Astronomers observe solar flares to keep track of the electromagnetic radiation coming toward the Earth. In small doses, this radiation bounces off the Earth's atmosphere. However, powerful bursts can disturb radio communication on the planet and pose a risk to satellites, power grids, and aviation. 

The intensity of the flares is measured in Classes A, B, C, M, and X, with the X being the strongest of them all. The most powerful flare recorded was in 2003 and classified in excess of X28. In comparison, the flare over the Easter weekend was classified as X1.1, which is still powerful but nowhere near the worst. 

The strongest flare in five years

Nevertheless, the flare recorded on Tuesday was the most powerful in the past five years, after it was classified as X2.2. Its origin was sunspot 2992, which was in the Sun's western limb, and the following coronal mass ejection was not directed toward the Earth. 

SpaceWeather gave more information about the flare in the tweet below, which shows the areas of Earth affected by the resultant blackout caused by strong R3 waves. 

This was followed by yet another flare belonging to a milder class, M, on April 20th, around 7 pm PT. 

Tracking solar flares also helps astronomers predict where Auroras may occur and their approximate intensities. However, as the Sun gets more active towards its weather cycle peak, scientists are keen to watch out for blackouts that the powerful solar flares can cause.

Earlier this year, SpaceX lost over 40 Starlink satellites to a solar flare even when they had barely reached their orbits. Without thousands of satellites now floating around the planet and playing an essential role in communication, scientists are worried about the impact of powerful solar flares in the future, CNET reported

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