- ‘X-class’ flare is most powerful kind of solar flare
- Two years of violent solar storms predicted
By Rob Waugh
Last updated at 3:45 PM on 7th March 2012
A powerful new group of sun spots has unleashed a barrage of solar flares – including an X1 class flare, the most powerful kind of solar flare.
The huge X1 flare comes as astronomers predict two years of solar storms which could disrupt satellites and electricity networks – and even affect Earth’s magnetic field
The blasts, the most powerful solar activity of the year so far, released highly charged particles into space, but because the active region 1429 is off to the ‘side’ of the sun, the blasts will not affect Earth too badly, and should only cause increased aurora or Northern lights.
So far, region 1429 has let loose two M-class flares and one X-class flare. The group of sun-spots is several times larger than Earth.
The peak of solar activity is expected by 2013.
Dr Matthew Penn, of the National Solar Observatory in Arizona, said: ‘Because the sun is becoming more active, it will have an impact on millions of people. Sunspots can cause the biggest and most damaging space storms that occur.
‘During the next two years, we are expecting the number of sunspots visible on the sun to reach a maximum. We know that sunspots are the source of a lot of space weather and solar storms, so we expect a larger number of solar storms here at the Earth.
This can impact our daily lives – power systems, communication systems, navigation systems.We expect to have more disruptions to our daily lives in the next two years because of solar activity.’
Dr Scott McIntosh, of the National Centre For Atmosphere Research in Boulder, Colorado, said in an interview with Horizon: ‘If we don’t understand space weather more clearly, we could easily end up in the electronic Dark Ages.’