First X-Class Solar Flare of 2013May 13, 2013
Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation. Harmful radiation from a flare cannot pass through Earth's atmosphere to physically affect humans on the ground, however -- when intense enough -- they can disturb the atmosphere in the layer where GPS and communications signals travel. This disrupts the radio signals for as long as the flare is ongoing - the radio blackout associated with this flare has since subsided.
"X-class" denotes the most intense flares, while the number provides more information about its strength. An X2 is twice as intense as an X1, an X3 is three times as intense, etc.
This flare erupted from an active region just out of sight over the left side of the sun, a region that will soon rotate into view. This region has produced two smaller M-class flares as well.
The May 12 flare was also associated with a coronal mass ejection, another solar phenomenon that can send billions of tons of solar particles into space, which can affect electronic systems in satellites and on the ground. Experimental NASA research models show that the CME left the sun at 745 miles per second and is not Earth-directed, however its flank may pass by the STEREO-B and Spitzer spacecraft, and their mission operators have been notified. If warranted, operators can put spacecraft into safe mode to protect the instruments from solar material. There is some particle radiation associated with this event, which is what can concern operators of interplanetary spacecraft since the particles can trip computer electronics on board.
Increased numbers of flares are quite common at the moment because the sun's normal 11-year activity cycle is ramping up toward solar maximum, which is expected in 2013. Humans have tracked the solar cycle continuously since it was discovered in 1843, and it is normal for there to be many flares a day during the sun's peak activity. The first X-class flare of the current solar cycle occurred on Feb. 15, 2011, and there have been another 15 X-class flares since, including this one. The largest X-class flare in this cycle was an X6.9 on Aug. 9, 2011.
NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center (http://swpc.noaa.gov) is the U.S. government's official source for space weather forecasts, alerts, watches and warnings.
What is a solar flare?
For answers to these and other space weather questions, please visit the Space Weather Frequently Asked Questions page: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/sunearth/spaceweather/index.html
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
Related X-class Flare Current Events and X-class Flare News Articles
NASA Releases IRIS Footage of X-class Flare
On Sept. 10, 2014, NASA's newest solar observatory, the Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph, or IRIS, mission joined other telescopes to witness an X-class flare - an example of one of the strongest solar flares -- on the sun.
NASA Telescopes Coordinate Best-Ever Flare Observations
On March 29, 2014, an X-class flare erupted from the right side of the sun... and vaulted into history as the best-observed flare of all time.
First sightings of solar flare phenomena confirm 3D models of space weather
Scientists have for the first time witnessed the mechanism behind explosive energy releases in the Sun's atmosphere, confirming new theories about how solar flares are created.
Veteran's Day Solar Flare
The sun emitted a significant solar flare that peaked at 12:14 a.m. EST on Nov. 10, 2013. Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation. Harmful radiation from a flare cannot pass through Earth's atmosphere to physically affect humans on the ground, however -- when intense enough -- they can disturb the atmosphere in the layer where GPS and communications signals travel.
Sun Unleashes Another X-class Flare
The sun emitted its sixth significant flare since Oct. 23, 2013, peaking at 11:26 p.m. EST on Nov. 7, 2013. Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation.
Sun Emits Fourth X-class Flare in a Week
The sun emitted a significant solar flare - its fourth X-class flare since Oct. 23, 2013 -- peaking at 5:54 p.m. on Oct. 29, 2013. Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation.
Activity Continues On the Sun
Solar activity continued on May 14, 2013, as the sun emitted a fourth X-class flare from its upper left limb, peaking at 9:48 p.m. EDT. This flare is classified as an X1.2 flare and it is the 18th X-class flare of the current solar cycle. The flare caused a radio blackout - categorized as an R3, or strong, on NOAA's space weather scales from R1 to R5 -- which has since subsided.
NASA sees second biggest flare of the solar cycle
NASA models using data from the Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO) and the Solar Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) have now provided more information about the two CMEs associated with the two March 6 flares.
UNH scientists: Sun delivered curveball of powerful radiation at Earth
A potent follow-up solar flare, which occurred Friday (Jan. 27, 2012), just days after the Sun launched the biggest coronal mass ejection (CME) seen in nearly a decade, delivered a powerful radiation punch to Earth's magnetic field despite the fact that it was aimed away from our planet.
Space Weather Center to Add World's First 'Ensemble Forecasting' Capability
After years of relative somnolence, the sun is beginning to stir. By the time it's fully awake in about 20 months, the team at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., charged with researching and tracking solar activity, will have at their disposal a greatly enhanced forecasting capability.
More X-class Flare Current Events and X-class Flare News Articles