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Two X-class solar flares in less than 2 hours, and more may come soon

Astronomy and AstrophysicsSolar Storms (2012)National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Two X-class solar flares flashed on the sun Tuesday morning. Why more may be coming soon.
More solar flares may be coming soon, but don't worry. Your friendly atmosphere will protect you.

The sun unleashed two X-class solar flares in the span of one hour and 10 minutes Tuesday morning, and there is a good chance that more may be coming soon.

Solar flares are big bursts of radiation that come from dark areas of the sun called sunspots. An X-class solar flare is the most powerful of these bursts. 

Tuesday's flares came from a sunspot on the lower left limb that just rotated into view dubbed Active Region 2087.

The area calmed down after its two violent outbursts this morning, but the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Space Weather Prediction Center says the new active region remains a "potent force" with more chances for strong flares that could cause radio blackouts in the next few days.

The first solar flare was the more powerful of the two. It erupted at 4:42 a.m. PDT and was declared an X2.2 solar flare. The second solar flare erupted at 5:52 a.m. and was deemed an X1.5

(An X2 solar flare is twice as strong as an X1 flare.)

X-rays and UV radiation from the two flares did mess with some radio transmissions over Europe this morning, said solar physicist Tony Phillips of spaceweather.com.

However, there's no reason to worry about these flares affecting you directly: Our planet's atmosphere protects us from any harmful radiation associated with solar flares.

AR2087 will rotate toward Earth over the next couple of weeks, so if it erupts again its radiation will be headed right toward us.

"If it remains active, we could have flares off and on for the next two weeks as it crosses the visible face of the sun," Phillips said in an email. 

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Astronomy and AstrophysicsSolar Storms (2012)National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
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