NASA: Sun Emits Largest Solar Flares of 2013

The sun unleashed two X-class flares on Sunday and Monday, the largest of the year.

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Close up of an X2.8-class flare that erupted from the sun on May 13, 2013. This image was captured by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory in a light wavelength not visible without special telescopes.

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The sun unleashed its first two X-class solar storms of the year Sunday and Monday, NASA said.

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The two flares were about 14 hours apart, with the second peaking at around Noon EDT Monday. That flare, an X2.8-class flare, the third-strongest flare during the eight-year solar cycle, which will reach its peak later this year. Last month, the sun emitted an M-class flare, which is much weaker than an X-class flare.

According to NASA, Monday's flare was associated with a coronal mass ejection (CME), which sends billions of charged particles into space and can wreak havoc on power grids and satellites. Monday's CME wasn't directed toward Earth, so there is unlikely to be any risk for astronauts on the International Space Station or a need to put satellites into "safe mode" until the CME passes.

Sunday and Monday's flare were the 15th and 16th X-class flares of the solar cycle, and there are likely to be more through the end of the year as the sun reaches "solar maximum." The strongest flare of the cycle, an X6.9, occurred Aug. 9, 2011. Last year, a large flare temporarily knocked military satellites offline.

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