Solar Flares

Scientists have detected spikes of solar x-ray radiation hitting Earth, and a flare on Tuesday could have been the cause.

Solar x-ray data detected by NOAA SWPC GOES satellites this week. © NOAA / SWPC Solar x-ray data detected by NOAA SWPC GOES satellites this week.

On Tuesday this week, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Space Weather Prediction Center reported that there had been multiple spikes of x-ray radiation detected by the GOES geostationary satellites orbiting our planet.

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The data shows that several spikes occurred throughout Tuesday and into Wednesday, raising the radiation levels noticeably each time.

In addition, the NOAA observed minor radio interference Tuesday measuring R1 out of R5 on its radio blackout scale. This means there was potentially some minor disruption to high frequency radio communications on sunlight sides of the Earth.

The event was also noticed by solar activity monitoring blog SpaceWeather.com, which obtained a brief clip of a solar flare, seen here, that occurred around the side of the sun on Tuesday morning as viewed by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO).

The website stated: "The blast site is hidden just behind the edge of the sun. It's almost certainly an unstable sunspot. The sun's rotation will bring it into view within the next 24-48 hours, creating a geoeffective source of solar activity."

NOAA's GOES (Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite) data shows that the x-ray activity has continued into Wednesday, though the spikes did not appear to have been quite so intense on Wednesday afternoon as they were the previous day.

As of 2:30 p.m. UTC (10:30 a.m. EDT) there were no active space weather alerts issued by the NOAA, though this is subject to change.

It's not the first time the sun has been active in October. A couple of weeks ago a geomagnetic storm from the sun, caused by burst of intense solar activity, ejected billions of tons of superheated gas at our planet.

The NOAA classified it as a G2 moderate category geomagnetic storm, with G5 being the highest level, and the Space Weather Prediction Center warned of possible power grid fluctuations, voltage alarms in some power systems, and even potentially auroras in states like New York or Washington.

Solar activity can affect electronics here on Earth by sending electromagnetic radiation our way. This radiation can, for example, interrupt a GPS satellite signal which could present navigational issues.

It could also create electric fluctuations on the ground, potentially blowing out transformers in power grids, according to NASA.

Huge storms strong enough to cause widespread issues are rare, but scientists have still prepared predictive measures in order to let electronics companies and pilots, for example, know when a burst of solar activity is coming.

A solar flare, pictured by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory on October 27, 2015. Such flares can potentially cause disruption on Earth. NASA / SDO © NASA / SDO A solar flare, pictured by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory on October 27, 2015. Such flares can potentially cause disruption on Earth. NASA / SDO

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