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Sun Blasts the Largest X-Class Solar Outburst in Recent Memory

On Tuesday, the Sun burst into three enormous solar flares, the largest of which the NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) claims to be the current 11-year solar cycle.

The X8.7 flare was observed shooting out of the Sun’s active sunspot zone, which is to blame for the current solar weather, which included Friday night’s breathtaking Northern Lights show that swept the entire country.

The strongest flare is an X, and the number denotes its intensity.

“Region 3664 produced yet another X-ray flare as it moves beyond the Western solar limb,” according to the SWPC. “This time, it was an X8.7 flare, the largest of this solar cycle.”

With the exception of a brief deterioration of high frequency radio transmissions on the sunlit side of the planet, this flare, in contrast to the preceding X-class flares last week, was not aimed towards Earth and is not anticipated to result in any severe geomagnetic storming or widespread communication problems.

Before the X8.7 flare was discovered, two more solar flares, an X1.7 and an X1.2, were observed shooting out from the Sun.

Tuesday Saw the Issuance of a Level 2 Geomagnetic Storm Watch

The SWPC warned that before the most recent solar flare, Earth might experience a coronal mass ejection, or an outburst of solar material from the Sun that would raise geomagnetic activity.

Although watches at that level are not unusual, the SWPC had issued a G2 “moderate” geomagnetic storm watch for Tuesday. The geomagnetic storms on Friday, in contrast, were at the highest G5 “extreme” category.

If a G2 geomagnetic storm lasted long enough, it might have an effect on electrical networks, similar to transformer damage, and require spaceships to make repairs. However, their common effect is to just start a cycle of Northern Lights that may extend as far south as some northern and Upper Midwest states from New York to Idaho.

A stunning show of the Northern Lights was witnessed by people all over the world late last week, triggered by the highest solar activity in decades. Parts of northern Mexico were also able to see the show, which extended as far south as Florida and Texas in the southern United States.

On Friday and Saturday, the Northern Lights erupted into a dazzling display of green, pink, purple, and red hues as a giant sunspot the size of 17 Earths erupted in solar flares, causing the geomagnetic storm activity to approach Level 5 “extreme” conditions.

The first geomagnetic storm to affect Earth since October 2003 was the Level 5. That storm destroyed electrical transformers in South Africa and cut out electricity in Sweden.

But Tuesday’s show of the Northern Lights won’t be quite as bright or powerful as it was last week.

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