Sun blasted the most powerful solar flare in six years

Solar physicists categorise strong flares into three categories: C, the weakest; M the middle group; and X, the most potent
A representational image of a solar flare. — Freepik
A representational image of a solar flare. — Freepik

Giving us a reminder of its immense might, the sun released the most powerful solar flare on Dec 14, 2023.

Captured in video footage by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory spacecraft, the Sun blasted out an extensive pulse of high-energy radiation with an X-class solar flare.

Solar physicists have categorised strong flares into three categories: C, the weakest; M the middle group; and X, the most potent.

Read more: Sun explosion today: Here is the forecast on solar wind

As per, the outburst, which occurred at 12:02 p.m. EST (1702 GMT), was registered as an X2.8 to be the most powerful solar flare since September 2017.

What are solar flares and why do they take place

According to NASA, solar flares are powerful bursts of energy from the sun. "Flares and solar eruptions can impact radio communications, electric power grids, navigation signals and pose risks to spacecraft and astronauts," added NASA.

Powerful flares are often accompanied by coronal mass ejections (CMEs), which send huge clouds of solar plasma rocketing into space at millions of miles per hour.

SpaceWeather wrote that it appears the most powerful solar flare accompanied a CME "with an Earth-directed component."

"The US Air Force is reporting a Type II solar radio burst, which typically comes from the leading edge of a CME. Based on the drift rate of the radio burst, the emerging CME's velocity could exceed 2,100 km/s (4.7 million mph).," it added.

The space-exploratory website further maintained that the flare "caused a deep shortwave radio blackout over the Americas.”

Impact of solar flares

Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs) impacting Earth have the potential to generate geomagnetic storms, leading to disturbances in power grids and other critical infrastructure. These storms can enhance and expand the visibility of auroras, creating more spectacular celestial displays.

While Earth's atmosphere shields us from the harmful radiation of solar flares, the impact of this radiation is still felt in various ways. It can interfere with signals transmitted by GPS and communication satellites, as well as cause radio blackouts, affecting our daily lives.

Solar flare at its peak: The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted that the current Solar Cycle 25 will touch its peak between January and October of 2024. As the sun is getting more and more active nowadays, more solar action is expected to be observed soon.