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‘Direct hit’: Sun serves up powerful solar flare, could bring Halloween aurora

The solar flare may disrupt satellites, radio, GPS and communications technology
NASA captured the X1-class solar flare on camera when it occurred on Oct. 28. (NASA Sun&Space/Twitter)

It seems the sun has a sentimentality for the holidays as a solar flare is set to hit Earth for the second time this month, this time on Halloween.

RELATED: Northern Lights put on a show across B.C. skies on Thanksgiving night

On Thanksgiving, Canadians were treated to a dazzling display of the aurora borealis that was caused by a coronal mass ejection, where magnetized plasma and particles erupt from the sun and wash over Earth. That storm was classified as G2 — fairly moderate in terms of storms from space

However, this new solar storm is much stronger. In a statement, NASA said the “significant storm” is an X1. The X class of solar storms is the strongest, and the number corresponds to the storm’s strength. So, although this is the strongest class of storm it’s far weaker than say an X3 or an X10, which is considered unusually intense.

The U.S. Space Weather Prediction Centre said the storm was caused by a coronal mass ejection that peaked on Oct. 28. Particles from the sun are now blazing towards Earth at a speed of 973 kilometres per second. The storm is expected to hit Earth on Oct. 30 and effects will continue into Oct. 31.

As a result of the storm, the Northern Lights will likely make another appearance in the mid-latitudes. Solar storms can cause disruptions with radio, GPS and other satellite-based technology. This flare already caused a radio blackout across South America on Thursday.

NASA explained that the sun entered a new cycle, Solar Cycle 25 in Dec. 2019. New solar cycles commence every 11 years and the sun goes through periods of storminess to relative calm. This will be the second X class flare of the current cycle. An X-1.6 flare was recorded on July 3 and was the largest recorded since 2017.


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