Nasa captures the strongest solar flares of the past decade

By Nilima Marshall

Nasa captured two high-intensity solar flares emitted from the Sun on Wednesday.

According to the US space agency, the second flare was the most intense recorded since the start of this sun cycle in December 2008.

The images were captured by Nasa’s Solar Dynamics Observatory.

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“The first flare is classified as an X2.2 flare and the second is an X9.3 flare,” Nasa said.

“X-class denotes the most intense flares, while the number provides more information about its strength. An X2 is twice as intense as an X1, an X3 is three times as intense, etc.”

Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation and can interfere with the GPS and communications satellites if they are intense enough.

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They occur when magnetic energy that has built up in the solar atmosphere is suddenly released.

Jets of ionised matter are projected hundreds of thousands of kilometres out of the Sun.

The two eruptions occurred in an active region of the Sun in the current solar cycle, which began in December 2008.

(Nasa)

Nasa said the intensity of solar activity is decreasing in general and heading towards a “solar minimum”.

Solar cycles last on average 11 years. At the end of the active phase, these eruptions become increasingly rare but can still be powerful.

“This is a phase when such eruptions on the sun are increasingly rare, but history has shown that they can nonetheless be intense,” Nasa said.

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