The sun has spewed its first X-class solar flare for the year, and the intense eruption was aimed directly at our planet.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) revealed that the sun unleashed the powerful solar flare on Wednesday, March 11, and the image of the solar event, which peaked at 12:22 p.m. EDT, was captured by the space agency's Solar Dynamics Observatory, which constantly monitors the sun.
The powerful burst of radiation, which originated from the sunspot known as Active Region 12297 (AR12297), is classified as an X2.2-class flare. X-class solar flares are the most intense of sun storms possible.
AR12297 has already fired several flares of medium strength, but the monster X-class solar flare that erupted on Wednesday was so strong that scientists from the U.S. Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) reported that wide areas suffered from radio blackouts for an hour.
"This is yet another significant solar flare from Active Region 12297 as it marches across the solar disk," the SWPC reported. "This is the largest flare the region has produced so far, after producing a slew of R1 (Minor) and R2 (Moderate) Radio Blackouts over the past few days."
The radio blackout was detected in many parts of the globe, including much of the Americas. Amateur radio astronomer Thomas Ashcraft reported that the blackout was most apparent in the frequency range between 15 MHz to 26 MHz.
"The X-flare scrambled the ionosphere thoroughly so that no decametric radio signals were supported in my part of the world," Ashcraft said. "The ionosphere started to reform after about 15 minutes when stations began to reappear."
Solar flares are triggered by intense activity in the corona of the sun and these events can have an immediate effect on our planet. Solar flares that are intense, for instance, can disrupt the layer of the atmosphere where signals for GPS and communications travel.
The electromagnetic radiation could also eventually interfere with high-frequency radio transmissions. Among those who use high-frequency radio transmissions are airlines for their in-flight communications and emergency first-responders for their coordination and control.
Solar flares also often come with coronal mass injections (CMEs), a cloud of solar plasma with magnetic field lines, and since the monster X-class solar flare was directed at the Earth, there is a possibility that the CME is also headed in the direction of our planet.