A giant active region on the sun erupted yesterday (October 26), with its sixth substantial flare since October 19. This flare was classified as an X2-class flare and it peaked at 6:56 a.m. EDT. This is the third X-class flare in 48 hours, erupting from the largest active region seen on the sun in 24 years.
This huge sunspot – called AR 12192 – is around 129,000 kilometers across. That’s big enough for 10 Earths to sit side-by-side along its diameter.
X-class denotes the most intense flares, while the number provides more information about its strength. An X2 is twice as intense as an X1, an X3 is three times as intense, etc.
Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation. Harmful radiation from a flare cannot pass through Earth’s atmosphere to physically affect humans on the ground, however – when intense enough – they can disturb the atmosphere in the layer where GPS and communications signals travel.
To see how this event may affect Earth, visit NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center, the U.S. government’s official source for space weather forecasts, alerts, watches and warnings.
Eleanor Imster has helped write and edit EarthSky since 1995. She was an integral part of the award-winning EarthSky radio series almost since it began until it ended in 2013. Today, as Lead Editor at EarthSky.org, she helps present the science and nature stories and photos you enjoy. She also serves as one of the voices of EarthSky on social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter and G+. She and her husband live in Tennessee and have two grown sons.