(CBS SF) — A series of three massive solar flares over the past week has bathed Earth in higher than normal amounts of radiation, with the potential to temporarily black out radio communication and navigational equipment if the sun was hitting that part of the planet.
The atmosphere absorbs the harmful radiation from these classes of events, but the upper radio communication that relies on the upper atmosphere can be significantly effected. One legendary solar flare in 1989 actually shut down power grids in the U.S. and Canada. That was an “X15” class flare.
An X1.6 class flare erupted on Tuesday. X is the strongest class, and an X2 is twice as strong as an X1.
An M-class or mid-level solar flare peaked at 6:59 p.m. Tuesday night, as measured by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory.
A third flare, an X1.1 on October 19th also sent radiation toward earth.
These fireworks are occurring just days before Thursday’s partial solar eclipse.
SOLAR ECLIPSE: Thursday Afternoon, 10/23
These solar eruptions can trigger larger than usual northern lights also known as the Aurora Borealis, sometimes making the glow visible as far south as Northern California.
Get alerts, see images, and learn what the X-scale means for solar energy at NOAA’s Solar Flare site.