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Cosmic Chaos: Massive Solar Flare Amid Most Powerful Solar Storm in Years Causes Havoc on Earth

Strongest Solar Storm Since 2017 Thwarts Canada Power Grid
Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

A surge of hot plasma from the sun's surface has triggered Earth's most powerful solar storm since 2017.

Apr. 3 2024, Published 1:02 p.m. ET

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A recent surge of hot plasma from the sun's surface has ignited Earth's most potent solar storm since 2017.

In addition to geomagnetic activity and breathtaking auroras, scientists have noted the occurrence of a formidable X-class solar flare in recent days.

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Several solar flares burst forth recently, with an X1.1 flare being particularly notable, leading to irregularities in Canada's power grid, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Solar flares are frequently accompanied by Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs), characterized by bursts of plasma and magnetic energy from the sun's outermost atmosphere, known as the corona.

A CME reached Earth's surface recently, triggering a G4-class geomagnetic storm, as confirmed by NOAA.

The agency, which rates geomagnetic storms on a scale from G1 to G5 based on intensity, issued an alert indicating that levels G1 through G4 had been reached, with potential aurora displays visible from Alabama to Northern California. The alert emphasized that there was no cause for alarm.

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In cycles typically spanning about 11 years, the sun gradually ascends to its maximum number of sunspots and highest level of solar activity before returning to a solar minimum.

"We are currently close to the predicted maximum of Solar Cycle 25," stated NOAA.

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Geomagnetic storms like those witnessed recently can occur on Earth a few times a year near solar maximum, the agency added.

As previously reported by at the end of December 2023, the largest solar flare since 2017, an X5, disrupted radio communications.

Experts from NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center anticipate that solar activity during Solar Cycle 25 will "increase more quickly and peak at a higher level" than previously anticipated by an expert panel.

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The revised forecast places the peak of the solar cycle between January and October of this year, with an expected maximum of 137 to 173 sunspots.

Solar flares can impact various systems, including radio communications, electric power grids and GPS navigation signals, while also posing risks to spacecraft and astronauts, particularly during spacewalks.

"Outside of the Earth's protective atmosphere, the extra associated radiation they are exposed to may cause radiation poisoning or other harmful health effects," warned NOAA.

Solar storms also present opportunities for viewing the aurora borealis, also known as the Northern Lights, as charged particles penetrate Earth's atmosphere.

The most powerful solar flare ever recorded was estimated to be an X45 in 2003, according to NASA.

"A powerful X-class flare like that can create long lasting radiation storms, which can harm satellites and even give airline passengers, flying near the poles, small radiation doses," noted the space agency. "X flares also have the potential to create global transmission problems and worldwide blackouts."


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