A giant sunspot on the Sun has been hyperactive this month, erupting six times into substantial solar flares in seven days.
In one 48 hour period, the Sun exploded into three X-class flares, all coming from the largest active region seen on our Solar System’s star in 24 years.
Dubbed AR 12192, this huge area takes up 0.24 per cent of one side of the Sun – around 129,000 kilometres across or big enough for ten Earths to sit side-by-side along its diameter. In a week, the large sunspot unleashed five X-class flares, the biggest and most powerful kind, enough to disrupt radio and satellite communications and navigational equipment on Earth.
Harmful radiation from flares can’t get past Earth’s atmosphere to physically affect humans. However, if it’s intense enough, it can disturb the atmosphere in the layer where GPS and comms signals travel.
The last three of AR 12192’s flares caused high frequency radio blackouts, with the one on October 26 hitting the Atlantic Ocean region, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) space weather division.
Unusually though, the high class flares were not accompanied by coronal mass ejections, where clouds of electrified gas are flung out from the Sun by the power of the flare. This meant that the flares weren’t accompanied by geomagnetic storms or auroras.
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