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The most powerful flare of the last 500 years was the first flare to be observed, on September 1, 1859, and was reported by British astronomer Richard Carrington. The event is named the Solar storm of 1859, or the "Carrington event". The flare was visible to a naked-eye, and produced stunning auroras down to tropical latitudes such as Cuba or Hawaii, and set telegraph systems on fire. The flare left a trace in Greenland ice in the form of nitrates and beryllium-10, which allow its strength to be measured today (New Scientist, 2005).
In modern times, the largest solar flare measured with instruments occurred on November 4, 2003 (initially measured at X28 and later upgraded to X45). Other large solar flares also occurred on April 2, 2001 (X20), October 28, 2003 (X17) and September 7, 2005 (X17). In 1989, during former solar cycle 22 two large flares occurred in March, 6 (X15) and August, 16 (X20) causing disruptions in electric grids and computer systems. A complete list is available at www.spaceweather.com...
The most powerful solar blast of this solar cycle happened on Valentine's Day and it will spark bright auroras when it hits the planet this week.
The flare was classified as an X-Class solar flare. At the time of the explosion, from Sunspot 1158, radio bands across the daytime side of the planet, over New Mexico and surrounding areas were affected.
While it’s believed that Solar Cycle 24 will be a quiet period, the past couple of days saw some “excitement” (relatively speaking) as the Sun generated its first X-Class solar flare of Solar Cycle 24. For those of you playing at home, a solar flare is essentially a giant expulsion of gas from the Sun — a sun fart, if you will. While these are not uncommon, an X-Class solar flare is the most powerful classification of flare that there is. The last time one occurred was on December 13th, 2006, in which a solar flare ejected what was estimated to be a billion-ton cloud of gas into space and towards Earth.
What does this mean for us? Not much. While this will serve as an opportunity to see how modern satellites operate during a radiation storm, all people in the Northern Hemisphere should expect is to see an increased aurora as the radiation from the solar flare reacts with Earth’s magnetic field.
So before you head to bed tonight, be sure to take a moment and look up. Who knows, you might see a bit of a show.