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Sun Fires off Largest Flare of Current Solar Cycle

Updated: Mar 1

A highly active region of the Sun has released three of the strongest type of solar flare (X-class) and many smaller flares in the last 36 hours.

The latest, an ‘X6.3’ flare released at 23:43 CET last night was the strongest solar flare observed during the current solar cycle.

This flare was not associated with ‘Energetic Solar Particles’ (ESP) or a ‘Coronal Mass Ejection’ (CME).

As the flare took place close to midnight in Europe, there was no impact on satellite navigation or communication in Europe. Solar flares alone do not directly impact ground-based infrastructure.

Largest flare of the current solar cycle as of 22 February 2024

The active region of sunspots responsible for these flares, named ‘NOAA AR 3590’, is now approaching the centre of the solar disk and will soon point directly towards Earth.

We expect further flares from this region in the coming days.

The probability of another strong X-class flare is estimated at 15%. The probability of more moderate C- and M-class flares over the next 24 hours is estimated at 99% and 60%, respectively.

As AR 3590 is now pointing towards Earth, a CME associated with any future flare is very likely to cause geomagnetic disturbances when it reaches our planet.

Space weather effects

The exact impact of the CME will depend on its speed, whether it is a ‘direct hit’ or shoots over or below Earth, and the orientation of the magnetic field within the CME.

Within the next 72 hours, the active region will become increasingly magnetically connected with Earth.

This means that any Energetic Solar Particles following the magnetic field lines stretching out from the Sun are likely to impact Earth and satellites in orbit.

We are monitoring the current solar activity and will provide information as soon as any new substantial events are detected.

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