Two powerful 'X-class' flares erupt on sun (+video)
The sun unleashed two extremely powerful flares Tuesday. NASA tentatively says that particles from the solar storms are probably heading in Earth's direction, but will likely deliver a glancing blow at most.
The sun unleashed a cosmic double whammy Tuesday (March 6), erupting with two major flares to cap a busy day of powerful solar storms. One of the flares is the most powerful solar eruption of the year, so far.
Both of the huge flares ranked as X-class storms, the strongest type of solar flares the sun can have. They followed several weaker, but still powerful, sun storms on Tuesday and came just days after another major solar flare on Sunday night.
The first big solar storm was also the most powerful one, ranking as an X5.4-class flare after erupting at 7:02 p.m. EST (0002 March 7 GMT), according to an alert from the Space Weather Prediction Center operated by the National Weather Service. It is the strongest solar flare yet for 2012.
The second event occurred just over an hour later, reaching a maximum strength of X1.3.
Several space-based observatories witnessed the solar flares, including NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory and the agency's Stereo-B spacecraft. The sun-watching observatories spotted huge clouds of charged particles — called coronal mass ejections, or CMEs — erupting from the solar flares.