Tags: x1 | solar | flare | blast | earth | radiation

X1 Solar Flare Over the Weekend Blasted the Earth With Radiation

Tuesday, 01 Apr 2014 09:15 AM

By Michael Mullins

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An X1 solar flare was released by the sun on Saturday, blasting the Earth with a powerful electromagnetic wave of radiation that caused a temporary radio blackout across the Blue Planet that lasted for several minutes, according to space weather experts.

The X-class solar flare occurred at approximately 1:48 p.m. EST Saturday, Discovery News reported.

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Though we're shielded by our atmosphere from the radiation given off by solar flares, if the flares had been pointed directly at the Earth, the ionizing X-ray and extreme ultraviolet radiation produced could have posed a potential threat to astronauts, satellites and other spacecraft in orbit, Space.com reported.

"Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation," Karen Fox of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center wrote in a statement. "Harmful radiation from a flare 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 GPS and communications signals travel."

In addition to temporarily blacking out radio signals, the X1 solar flare also produced new radio signals of its own, according to astronomer Tony Phillips.

"The explosion above sunspot AR2017 sent shock waves racing through the sun's atmosphere at speeds as high as 4800 km/s (11 million mph)," Phillips wrote on Spaceweather.com. "Radio emissions stimulated by those shocks crossed the 93 million mile divide to Earth, causing shortwave radio receivers to roar with static."

According to Phillips, a minor geomagnetic storm could come about on Wednesday due to Saturday's solar flare and several recent eruptions of super-hot solar plasma on the sun's surface. The minor geomagnetic storms, however, will have little to no effect on the Earth.

The sun is in an active phase of its 11-year solar cycle, Space.com reported, noting that X-class flares were observed both at the beginning of January and in February as well.

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