NASA's SDO catches the brightest solar flare in over a decade

Two X-class solar flares as seen by the SDO.                  NASA  Goddard  SDO

Two X-class solar flares as seen by the SDO. NASA Goddard SDO

The X9.3 flare is the largest flare recorded so far in the 11-year solar cycle.

The two flares occurred Wednesday morning at 5:10am and 8:02am EDT.

On September 6, 2017, an active region on the Sun released two X-class solar flares, captured here by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO).

"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 Global Positioning System and communications signals travel", the space agency said in a statement.

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Both of the flares erupted from AR 2673, an active region on the sun which was also responsible for producing a mid-level solar flare on Monday, NASA said.

That means that while the solar radiation won't kill people, it can mess with human communication and your Global Positioning System device. During the Sun's rotation, the magnetic loops become wrapped becoming tighter as the rotation progresses. Solar storms result from an accumulation of magnetic energy in some places.

It's the biggest flare on record in a decade. The X9.3 flare was the strongest observed since an X9.0 in December 2006 and the eighth most powerful since at least June 1996, according to Smithsonian.com and SpaceWeatherLive.com. It is not yet clear if that CME will hit Earth directly.

The solar flares were strong enough to cause radio disruptions on the day but will have a continued impact during the night.

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This led to concern that the flares could cause geomagnetic storms that would then cause problems on Earth.

The Sun may not be done yet, either - the large group of sunspots, which is visible through a protective solar filter (including those solar eclipse glasses you may still have lying around), has already sent out other, weaker M-class flares.

The flares that occurred September 6 were responsible for high-frequency radio blackouts on the dayside of the planet lasting an hour. They should be arriving within a few days.

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