Sun emits super-intense flare today

NASA catches images of two solar flares shooting off the sun

The sun emitted two solar flares today, including one that was the most intense the sun can unleash.

One flare peaked at 4:01 a.m. ET and the second, a more significant flare, peaked at 11:03 a.m. ET, causing a temporary radio blackout, according to the National Weather Service's Space Weather Prediction Center.

Despite their intensity, the flares are unlikely to cause geomagnetic storm activity on Earth because of their launch position on the sun. The flares were the second and third the sun has emitted in three days.

However, the National Weather Service is still waiting to see the impact of another solar flare emitted earlier this week. It could cause minor geomagnetic storms, which are temporary disturbances in the Earth's magnetosphere that can distrupt radios, navigation systems and radar. They also can cause intense auroral displays.

Both of today's solar flares were produced from a region of the sun called 1882.

The earlier solar flare was classified as an X1.7 class, while the second one was an X2.1. An X-class flare denotes the most intense flares, while the number adds more information about its strength. An X2, for instance, is twice as intense as an X1.

NASA noted that in the past, X-class flares of this intensity have caused degradation or blackouts of radio communications for about an hour.

It's not unusual to see an increase in solar flares since the sun's normal 11-year activity cycle is near its peak.

The largest X-class flare in this cycle was an X6.9 that erupted on Aug. 9, 2011, according to NASA.

Solar flare
NASA caught this image of the second solar flare that the sun emitted today. The flare appears as the bright flash on the left. (Photo: NASA)

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Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, on Google+ or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her email address is

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