The sun blasted out seven massive solar flares in as many days in an extraordinary period of space weather that has sparked stunning geomagnetic storms above the earth.
Between September 4 and September 11, NASA observed seven flares, all classed in its strongest “X” category, with the most impressive registering at X9.3, a very significant event.
The latest, at X8.2 also a significant flare, peaked at 12:06 p.m. EDT on Sept. 10. It prompted warnings of possible radio blackouts from the Space Weather Prediction Center, which also issued a geomagnetic storm warning for Wednesday and Thursday.
The X9.3 solar flare was named by NASA as the strongest so far in the current solar cycle, a roughly 11-year period that began in December, 2008. The solar activity has been linked to increased aurora activity in the northern skies.
“The current solar cycle ... is now decreasing in intensity and heading toward solar minimum,” NASA said, “This is a phase when such eruptions on the sun are increasingly rare, but history has shown that they can nonetheless be intense.”
All the flares have emerged from the same “active region” of the sun, dubbed AR2673.
These events have been extremely intense, but none has caused serious disruption on Earth, and there’s no indication that the solar situation is going to get worse.
But that won’t always necessarily be the case in the future. In 1989, Canada’s Quebec state faced a nine-hour blackout from a solar event called a Coronal Mass Ejection.
Solar flares could also disrupt communications, including crucial satellite guidance system that could affect airplanes.