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(Discern Report)—On Thursday, the Sun unleashed a colossal solar flare, emitting high-energy radiation that NASA successfully captured, marking what NOAA Space Weather has identified as “likely one of the largest” events of its kind ever documented.
The significance of this event lies in the potential impact of these powerful bursts of energy on various systems. NASA noted in a statement that these solar flares can disrupt radio communications, electric power grids, navigation signals, and pose risks to both spacecraft and astronauts. Following this particular solar flare, radio frequency blackouts were reported across the United States.
This is likely one of the largest solar radio events ever recorded. Radio communication interference with aircraft were reported by multiple NWS Center Weather Service Units (CWSU) co-located at FAA facilities. See https://t.co/U2jmmJNjJV for full story. pic.twitter.com/tAiLovhCUw
— NOAA Space Weather (@NWSSWPC) December 15, 2023
While such events are rare, the consequences of extreme coronal mass ejections (CME), large bursts of plasma from the Sun, can be severe. In a worst-case scenario, they have the potential to cause months-long blackouts on Earth, resulting in billions of dollars in damages and harm to satellites.
A recent study from Lancaster University, published on Monday, added another layer of concern by revealing that solar storms could induce errors in railway systems. The study highlighted that in extreme cases, these storms could alter train signals from red to green, introducing a new dimension of risk to transportation infrastructure.
The Sun’s activity is measured in 11-year cycles, and solar flares are classified based on their intensity, ranging from the weakest (B class) to C, M, and the most powerful (X). NOAA scientists have categorized Thursday’s solar flare as an X-class event, marking it not only as the largest within the current Solar Cycle 25 but also the most substantial since September 2017.
Interestingly, while CMEs can pose threats, they also have the potential to enhance natural phenomena such as auroras. This particular solar flare has raised the possibility of residents in New England witnessing the northern lights, according to reports from CBS News.
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