The Sun unleashes its largest solar flare in nearly a decade

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — The sun produced its biggest flare in nearly two decades on Tuesday, just days after intense solar storms battered Earth and created dazzling northern lights in unusual places.

“I have not finished yet!” The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced in an update.

It is the largest flare of this 11-year solar cycle, which is nearing its peak, according to NOAA. The good news is that Earth should be out of the line of fire this time because the flame broke out on a part of the sun that rotates away from Earth.

NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory captured the bright flash of the X-ray flare. It was the strongest since 2005, and is rated on the flare scale as X8.7.

It could be stronger when scientists collect data from other sources, said Brian Brasher of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Space Weather Prediction Center in Boulder, Colorado.

It comes after nearly a week of flares and mass coronal plasma ejections that threatened to disrupt power and communications on Earth and in orbit. Brasher noted that the ejecta associated with Tuesday’s flare appears to have been directed away from our planet, although analysis is ongoing.

NASA said that the geomagnetic storm that occurred over the weekend caused one of its environmental satellites to rotate unexpectedly due to a decrease in altitude due to space weather, and to enter a protective sleep state known as safe mode. On the International Space Station, the seven astronauts were advised to stay in areas with a strong radiation shield. The crew was in no danger at all, according to NASA.

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This story has been updated to correct that it is the largest solar flare in nearly two decades, not nearly a decade.

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The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Science and Education Media Group. AP is solely responsible for all content.

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