X-class Solar Flares hitting earth so far out-pacing last year

Solar Flare

Important Takeaways:

  • Powerful X-class solar flare slams Earth, triggering radio blackout over the Pacific Ocean
  • Scientists spotted the flare erupting from the bottom of the sun on Thursday (March 28), using satellites from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), according to the organization’s Space Weather Prediction Center.
  • The flare, which peaked at 4:56 p.m. ET, was categorized as an X1.1 flare. X-class flares are the most powerful type of explosion the sun can produce, according to NASA.
  • The explosion was so powerful that it ionized the top of Earth’s atmosphere, resulting in a “deep shortwave radio blackout over the Pacific Ocean,” SpaceWeather.com reported.
  • The solar outburst was also accompanied by an enormous belch of plasma known as a coronal mass ejection (CME). NOAA scientists were initially concerned that the CME would collide with Earth, potentially resulting in a geomagnetic storm that could impact satellites, radio communications and other infrastructure. However, on Friday (March 29) the agency announced that the outburst would likely miss Earth.
  • This solar event comes on the heels of a “double” X-class flare that occurred Monday (March 25), triggering the most powerful geomagnetic storm on our planet in six years. Not only that, but the unique event was made up of two simultaneous explosions, also known as a sympathetic solar flare.
  • The abundance of back-to-back solar events has led scientists to think the sun may have entered its explosive era of peak activity, known as solar maximum — which seems to be starting a year earlier than previous forecasts predicted. However, researchers will have to wait until the sun “calms down” to know for sure.
  • So far in 2024, seven X-class flares, including the latest one, have burst from the sun, which is already half the number that reached Earth in 2023, Live Science previously reported.

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Scientists Warn of Geomagnetic Storm Affecting Earth

Scientists say parts of the lower 48 states could witness the Northern Lights and some other effects tonight as the aftermath of a powerful explosion on the sun travels toward the Earth.

The Space Weather Prediction Center has issued a G3 (Strong) warning for Wednesday evening, saying a geomagnetic storm could cause the Northern Lights to be seen as far south as Oregon and Illinois. The scientists say recent events on the sun could trigger the storm in the night sky.

According to the Space Weather Prediction Center, the sun underwent a coronal mass ejection on Monday and released a significant amount of plasma and magnetic material into space. That material is expected to impact the Earth’s magnetosphere tonight, according to the scientists, creating conditions ripe for a geomagnetic storm that could possibly linger into Thursday.

Geomagnetic storms involve the disruption of Earth’s natural magnetic elements, according to the Space Weather Prediction Center. The scientists caution storms of this strength can impact satellites, radio transmissions and necessitate some voltage corrections in power supplies.