How one of the strongest solar flares from the sun affected Earth

Posted at 4:20 PM, Feb 14, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-14 17:20:25-05

USA TODAY — A massive solar flare erupted from the sun over the weekend, causing radio blackouts on Earth – and more could possibly be on the horizon.

The sun emitted the solar flare on Saturday, peaking around 10:48 a.m. ET, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Space Weather Prediction Center. The flare, which came from a part of the sun named active region 3217, was designated a X1.1 flare, one of the strongest types of flares the sun can produce.

More flares from the region could be coming, the Space Weather Prediction Center predicts as it moves across the sun.

Here's what to know about the flare and its impact:

Solar flares – giants explosions on the sun that NASA says send energy, light and particles throughout our solar system – have a designated classification system to determine its strength. They are divided into these categories:

  • X-class: the strongest
  • M-class
  • C-class
  • B-class
  • A-class: the smallest 

Each letter class represents a 10-fold increase in energy output, NASA says, so an X-class is 10 times stronger than M-class and 100 times stronger than a C-class and so on.
When it comes to X-class flares, the flares can be ten times the size of Earth, according to NASA.

"The biggest X-class flares are by far the largest explosions in the solar system and are awesome to watch," NASA says. "In the biggest events, this reconnection process can produce as much energy as a billion hydrogen bombs."

Within each class is a number scale, 1-9, to determine its exact impact. However, X-class flares can go higher than nine, as in 2003, a flare was so strong that it overloaded measuring sensors when it reach X28.

The solar flare from Saturday reached Earth, causing a temporary but strong radio blackout over South America, according to

When solar storms erupt, they can send out a coronal mass ejection – sun material – out into space, which can cause issues with communication and navigation systems on Earth, as well as power grids, depending on strength. Luckily, the X1.1 flare did not produce a coronal mass ejection, said.

But the additional potential flares from the region could allow for more hits to Earth, the center said.