Solar flares may seem like out of the way events but they can do the damage more than we except like they can damage satellites and even ground-based technologies and power grids. Every 11 years as the Sun reaches its maximum activity they become bigger and that increases the chances of affecting the earth significantly.
So what are these solar eruptions?
A solar flare is an explosion on the surface of the Sun ranging from minutes to hours in length. Large flares can release enough energy to power the entire United States for a million years.
Flares happen when the powerful magnetic fields in and around the Sun reconnect. They’re usually associated with active regions often seen as sunspots where the magnetic fields are strongest. Flares are classified according to their strength the smallest ones are B Class followed by C, M, and X.
The largest is similar to the Richter scale for earthquakes. Each letter represents a tenfold increase in energy output so an X is ten times an M and a hundred times a C. Within each letter class there’s a finer scale from one to nine. C-class flares are too weak to noticeably affect earth; M-class flares can cause brief radio blackouts at the poles and minor radiation storms that might endanger astronauts. it’s the x-class flares that are the real juggernauts although X is the last letter there are flares more than ten times the power of an x one so x-class flares can go higher than nine the most powerful flare on record was in 2003 during the last solar maximum it was so powerful that it overloaded the sensors measuring it they cut out at x17 and the flare was later estimated to be about x45. A powerful x-class flare like that can create long-lasting radiation storms which can harm satellites and even get airline passengers flying near the polls small radiation doses X flares also have the potential to create global transmission problems and worldwide blackouts. The seriousness of an x-class flare pointed at earth is why NASA and NOAA constantly monitor the Sun. NASA’s heliophysics fleet of spacecraft can now see the Sun from every side and in many different wavelengths this unprecedented coverage enabling scientists to predict and detect space weather events like flares and CMEs with ever greater accuracy with advanced warning. Governments and companies can take steps to protect their technology infrastructure so that the worst scenarios will never happen