Solar Flare 2011: The Largest Since 2006

The sun unleashed its strongest solar flare in four years hurling a massive wave of charged particles from electrified gas into space and toward Earth. The solar storm sent a flash of radiation that hit Earth in a matter of minutes; a huge cloud of charged particles headed our way. These “coronal mass ejections,” as they are called, typically take around 24 hours or more to arrive. They can spark spectacular displays of the aurora borealis, or Northern Lights, at high latitudes and sometimes even into the northern United State. It has been the largest flare since Dec 6, 2006.

While this means the northern lights, Aurora Borealis, may be visible much further south than usual (for example, in the northern United States and UK), it also could have serious technological ramifications, as well.

According to China’s official Xinhua News Agency, electromagnetic activity from the solar flares have already jammed shortwave radio communications in the southern part of the country. According to the AFP, in 1973 a magnetic storm from a solar flare caused 6 million people to lose electricity in Canada.

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