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14.55 7 Sep 2017


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A pair of 'significant' solar flares have blasted out of the Sun, causing temporary radio blackouts here on Earth.

One of yesterday's solar flares is said to be the most powerful since 2006.

NASA describes solar flares as 'powerful bursts of radiation', emitted from particularly active areas of the Sun.

Solar flares are not powerful enough to affect humans on Earth's surface.

They can, however, disturb the atmosphere, and as a result disrupt GPS and communication signals.

Solar flares are classified by 'X-class' - such as X1 - with higher numbers signalling a more intense event. 

The first flare - which peaked at around 9am Irish time on Wednesday - was classified as X2.2, but the second flare which peaked three hours later has been classified X9.3.

The second flare is most powerful recorded during the current 11-year-long solar cycle, as well as the strongest since an X9.0 in 2006.

NASA explains: "The current solar cycle began in December 2008, and is now decreasing in intensity and heading toward solar minimum.

"This is a phase when such eruptions on the sun are increasingly rare, but history has shown that they can nonetheless be intense."

According to the US Space Weather Prediction Centre (SPWC) high-frequency radio experienced a 'wide area of blackouts' as a result of the solar flares, losing contact for around on hour over the sunlit area of the planet.

Low-frequency radio signals used in navigation, meanwhile, was temporarily degraded as a result of the solar activity.


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