Sun Emits a Mid-Level Flare

First Posted: Nov 14, 2012 02:36 PM EST

NASA spotted a mid level solar flare being emitted by the Sun on Nov 13 at 9.04 P.M EST. This flare was classified as an M6 flare.

Solar flares are gigantic bursts of radiation that 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 (GPS) and communications signals travel. This also disrupts the radio signals for as long as the flare is ongoing anywhere from minutes to hours.

Similarly on the July 19, 2012 the sun emitted a mid level flare beginning at 1:13 A.M EDT. This flare was classified as M7.7 flare, indicating weaker than the largest flare, which are classified as X-class. Increased numbers of flares are currently quite common, since the sun's standard 11-year activity cycle is ramping up toward solar maximum, which is expected in 2013.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, which is the United States government's official source for space weather forecasts and alerts, categorized the radio blackout associated with this flare as an R3, on a scale from R1 to R5. It has since subsided.

Ever since it was discovered in 1843, since then humans have been tracking the solar cycle continuously. To witness more than one solar flare a day during the sun's peak activity normal.

It was on Feb. 15, 2011 that the first X class flare of the current solar cycle occurred. and there have been 15 X-class flares total in this cycle, including this one. The largest X-class flare in this cycle was an X6.9 on Aug. 9, 2011. This is the 7th X-class flare in 2012 with the largest being an X5.4 flare on March 7.

The flare was not associated with a coronal mass ejection (CME). CME is also one of the solar phenomena that send solar particles into space and can reach Earth one to three days later. They disrupt the flow of the solar wind and produce disturbances that strike the Earth with sometimes catastrophic results.

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