Sun Unleashes Two High-Powered X-Class Solar Flares

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And barely an hour apart from each other, too!

Early Tuesday morning (June 10), an apparently hyperactive active region rotating around the sun’s southwestern limb erupted with not one, but two X-class solar flares — the strongest type of flare, based on a letter-based classification system.

PHOTOS: The Psychedelic Anatomy of a Solar Flare

The first flare occurred at 7:41 a.m. EDT (11:41 UT) and registered as an X2.2. Just over an hour later at 8:52 a.m. EDT an X1.5-class flare blazed from the same spot, a little less than half the strength of the first.

The image above shows the earlier, stronger flare as captured by the orbiting Solar Dynamics Observatory’s Atmospheric Imaging Assembly. Below is the second X1.5 flare:

X1.5-class flare imaged by SDO at 8:55 a.m. (12:55 UT) on June 10, 2014.
NASA/SDO

Watch a video of the X2.2 flare on the SDO is GO blog here.

Solar flares are driven by powerful magnetic fields rising up from deep within the sun. They occur around “active regions” — accompanied by sunspots — and blast large amounts of electromagnetic radiation out into space. If a flare happens to occur over an active region facing Earth (which this one is not… yet) it can trigger a geomagnetic storm, resulting in increased auroral activity and potential communication interference.

PHOTOS: Simmering Solar Views from SDO

Although both were X-class, these two flares were low on the X-scale, which can climb higher than 9. In 2003 a flare occurred that registered off the scale — and the scale tops out at X28!

Source: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center