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Thursday's solar flare was the strongest so far this year


NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) captured this image of the flares. It shows a combination of light in wavelengths of 131 and 171 angstroms.
NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) captured this image of the flares. It shows a combination of light in wavelengths of 131 and 171 angstroms.

Daniel Martins, staff writer

April 14, 2013 — The image artists at NASA have always had a flair for catching your eye, and this past week was no exception.

The sun is approaching its solar maximum, the peak of its 11-year activity cycle. Courtesy: NASA/SDO
The sun is approaching its solar maximum, the peak of its 11-year activity cycle. Courtesy: NASA/SDO

This picture, released by the agency's Solar Dynamics Observatory, is a false colour representation of Thursday's solar flare, in a combination of light at two different wavelengths.

The flare was the strongest yet so far this year, sending billions of tons of solar particles through space at almost 1,000 km/s

The class-M6.5 burst was relatively weak -- about ten-times less than the strongest X-class -- but NASA says there's more on the way as sun reaches the peak of its normal 11-year cycle, expected in late 2013.

"Increased numbers of flares are quite common at the moment," the space agency said in a press release. "Humans have tracked this solar cycle continuously since it was discovered, and it is normal for there to be many flares a day during the sun's peak activity."

The most recent flare was strong enough to cause a brief radio blackout -- rated at R2 on a five-point scale.

Stronger flares can disrupt global communications, damage satellites and pose a risk to orbiting astronauts.

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