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Massive Solar Eruption Is Strongest Flare Of The Year

May 13, 2013 10:23 AM EDT
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The largest solar flare recorded this year erupted from the Sun's northeastern limb on Sunday, as our star enters the peak of its 11-year weather cycle.

Space.com reported that that X1.7-class solar flare, also called a coronal mass ejection (CME), is the one of the largest types of eruptions the Sun can unleash. Every other flare the Sun has shot out this year has been M-class or weaker.

Sunday's flare was not directed towards Earth, but SpaceWeather.com reported that the CME is on a path that will intercept NASA's Epoxi and Spitzer spacecraft on May 15.

When directed towards Earth, solar flares, especially strong ones, can pose risk to astronauts and satellites in orbit, as well as cause communication problems on the ground. CMEs can also enhance Earth's northern lights displays with the intense bombardment of solar particles.

SpaceWeather reported that no planets were in the CME's "line of fire."

"The sunspot that produced this blast is on the farside of the sun. Soon, in a few days, it will turn toward Earth, emerging into view over the sun's eastern limb," the site reported

For the second week running, the Sun has blasted out coronal mass ejections as a pace of about two per day, according to NASA's Solar and Heliospheric Observatory.

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