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by Brooks Hays
Washington (UPI) Jun 11, 2013
The sun spouted another giant solar flare today, its third in two days. And yet again, one of NASA's many satellites was there to capture images.
Tuesday, NASA's space-based Solar Dynamics Observatory captured two giant eruptions of gas from the sun's surface. Wednesday, the same sun-watching satellite caught Earth's home star belching out yet another X-class flare -- the largest category, with M-class flares slightly less impressive, and C-class being the smallest.
The Boulder, Colorado-based U.S. Space Weather Prediction Center confirmed that Wednesday's flare caused a brief radio blackout on Earth. But officials said the flare wasn't so significant that it featured a coronal mass ejection, a burst of hot plasma sent into space.
Solar flare enthusiasts should stay tuned, because scientists say there is likely more to come. The sun is hitting its solar flare stride -- the most volatile portion of its 11-year weather cycle, called "solar maximum."
"It's back," Dean Pesnell, a scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, said Tuesday. "Solar max has arrived."
Huge solar flares caught on camera by NASA
The solar fireworks went off early Tuesday morning, and were recorded by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, the agency's satellite dedicated to constantly monitoring the sun.
Both of the eruptions were classified as X flares, the biggest and brightest category. M-class flares are medium-sized while C-class flares are the smallest variety. The first of the two flares was measured as an X2.2, and the second was an X1.5 -- the numbers a reflection of their relative intensity.
Although solar flares release an intense burst of radioactivity into space, the waves cannot penetrate Earth's atmosphere and harm humans. They can, however, momentarily disrupt GPS and communication satellites.
So far, NASA observatories have captured a total of seven solar flares on film in 2014. The agency described both of this morning's flares as "significant," with the first being one of the biggest this year. Only February's X4.9 flare was bigger.
Solar Science News at SpaceDaily
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