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How to protect satellites and spacecraft from 'X-class' solar flares

Washington, Wed, 10 Aug 2011 ANI

Washington, Aug 10 (ANI): Scientists at NASA and NOAA-as well as at the US Air Force Weather Agency (AFWA) and others - are keeping a constant watch on the Sun to monitor for biggest solar flares and their associated magnetic storms, which can harm satellites and spacecrafts.


With advance warning, many satellites and spacecrafts can be protected from the worst effects.


Solar flares are giant explosions on the Sun that send energy, light and high speed particles into space. These flares are often associated with solar magnetic storms known as coronal mass ejections (CMEs).


The number of solar flares increases approximately every 11 years, and theun is currently moving towards another solar maximum, likely in 2013.


The biggest flares are known as "X-class flares" based on a classification system that divides solar flares according to their strength.


The smallest ones are A-class (near background levels), followed by B, C, M and X.


C-class and smaller flares are too weak to noticeably affect Earth.


M-class flares can cause brief radio blackouts at the poles and minor radiation storms that might endanger astronauts.


The biggest X-class flares are by far the largest explosions in the solar system and can produce as much energy as a billion hydrogen bombs.


If they're directed at Earth, such flares and associated CMEs can create long lasting radiation storms that can harm satellites, communications systems, and even ground-based technologies and power grids.


X-class flares on December 5 and December 6, 2006, for example, triggered a CME that interfered with GPS signals being sent to ground-based receivers. (ANI)


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