Watch the moment the Sun launched its strongest solar flare in half a DECADE towards Earth – as scientists warn it could wreak havoc on radios and GPS satellites

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  • Video captures the moment the Sun erupts with the largest flare in five years 
  • Experts say this will not trigger the Northern Lights but could disrupt radios 
  • READ MORE: US suffers radio blackouts after being hit by ANOTHER solar storm

After a week of massive solar storms, the Sun has just erupted with the biggest solar flare in half a decade.

Stunning video captured by NASA’s Solar Dynamic Observatory shows the moment the colossal explosion sent plumes of plasma hurtling into space. 

This blast of radiation was the largest since the start of the solar cycle in 2019 and was even bigger than the flares that triggered last week’s stunning Northern Lights. 

Unfortunately, any hopeful stargazers will disappointed to hear that this massive flare is not likely to trigger any more auroras.

However, experts warn that it could still lead to disruption for radios and GPS satellites around the world. 

The solar flare, classified as an X8.8, was the strongest to come from this solar cycle which began in 2019. Circled in red is the solar flare as it erupted from a sunspot on the Western side of the sun

The solar flare, classified as an X8.8, was the strongest to come from this solar cycle which began in 2019. Circled in red is the solar flare as it erupted from a sunspot on the Western side of the sun 

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US suffers radio blackouts after being hit by ANOTHER solar storm, NOAA says

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At 16:51 BST yesterday evening, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Space Weather Prediction Center spotted an enormous solar flare. 

NASA’s Solar Dynamic Observatory captured this incredible across the electromagnetic spectrum.

The videos reveal how arks of plasma captured by magnetic fields looped and twisted as the flare built up.

And, as the resulting explosion ripped from the Sun’s western face the radiation was so powerful it even appeared to disrupt NASA’s specialist cameras. 

Classified as an X8.7-class flare, the explosion dwarfed last week’s flares which reached only X2.2.

However, experts say the flare may have actually been even bigger than their measurements suggest.

As these videos show, the flare emerged from just beyond the sun’s western horizon which gave Earth some protection from the radioactive blast. 

However, while this might have kept Earth safe it also means that there is very little chance of seeing any Northern Lights this weekend. 

The powerful X-class flare erupted from the sun a little more than two hours before high-frequency radio blackouts were reported over the US and parts of South America

The powerful X-class flare erupted from the sun a little more than two hours before high-frequency radio blackouts were reported over the US and parts of South America

The Northern Lights

The Northern and Southern Lights (auroras) are natural light spectacles.

The displays light up when electrically charged particles from the sun enter Earth’s atmosphere. 

Usually, the particles are deflected by Earth’s magnetic field, but during stronger storms they enter the atmosphere and collide with gas particles such as hydrogen and helium.

These collisions emit light in many amazing colours, although pale green and pink are common. 

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Dr Greg Brown, an astronomer at the Royal Observatory Greenwich, told MailOnline: ‘This flare is unlikely to produce any sizeable aurorae for the simple reason that it isn’t pointed in our direction.

‘For a coronal mass ejection, which often accompanies flares like this, to produce an aurora on Earth, the spray of particles from the Sun must hit the Earth’s atmosphere.’

The Met Office predicts that the Earth may receive a glancing blow from two other solar eruptions in the next few days, although any auroral activity will be limited.

A Met Office spokesperson told MailOnline: ‘While there was a large solar flare, because of where the sunspot is, and coronal mass ejections that come from that area will largely miss the Earth. 

‘Any coronal mass ejections that arrive in the next few days will have fewer impacts as they aren’t likely to directly impact the Earth like the ones last weekend.’

While the effects on the Northern Lights may be limited, this solar flare is already having an impact on communication systems on Earth. 

Solar flares like this one produce massive amounts of ultraviolet radiation which change the way radio waves pass through our atmosphere. This can trigger radio blackouts in certain frequencies

Solar flares like this one produce massive amounts of ultraviolet radiation which change the way radio waves pass through our atmosphere. This can trigger radio blackouts in certain frequencies 

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Miss the Northern Lights this weekend? Don’t worry – solar storm will give Brits ANOTHER chance to see aurora

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As this radiation hits Earth, it changes the way that radio signals pass through parts of the upper atmosphere. 

This means that large flares can affect GPS navigation services, communications systems and other technologies. 

NOAA reported strong radio blackouts over all of North America from around 17:51 BST (12:51 ET).

Users of high-frequency radio waves experienced intermittent or total loss of service as the Earth was bombarded with radiation. 

Dr Brown said: ‘Even though the flare itself is not pointed in our direction, it is still likely to produce interference for certain radio communications.

‘It should only affect high frequency, or shortwave, radio signals. This is often used for military communications, amateur radio and some forms of radar.’

Solar flares are caused by magnetic field lines in the Sun’s volatile outer layers becoming tangled and snap, releasing powerful blasts of X-rays and ultraviolet radiation. 

Communication disruptions were reported over North and South America at around 12:51 ET, shown here in the red regions near the pole and over the Americas

Communication disruptions were reported over North and South America at around 12:51 ET, shown here in the red regions near the pole and over the Americas

The sunspot responsible for the flare, visible as a bright region in the far left of this image, is now rotating away from Earth. However, there is a chance it could survive long enough to rotate back around to face us again in about two weeks

The sunspot responsible for the flare, visible as a bright region in the far left of this image, is now rotating away from Earth. However, there is a chance it could survive long enough to rotate back around to face us again in about two weeks

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NOAA says there’s a 60% chance a radiation storm could hit Earth this WEEK… here is all YOU need to know

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These field lines form over cooler areas of the Sun’s surface known as sun spots, which appear as dark blotches to our telescopes. 

The particular sunspot responsible for last week’s solar storms and this recent flare is called active sunspot region 3664, which is so vast that it could comfortably fit 15 Earths lined up edge to edge.

This makes it around the same size as the sunspot which triggered the 1859 Carrington event in which a solar flare set telegraph stations on fire and cut communications worldwide.

This sunspot has now rotated onto the rear face of the Sun, meaning the Earth will be sheltered from any future blasts.

However, this active region may still retain its structure for long enough to rotate back to face Earth in about two weeks. 

And, with the Sun at the peak of its 11-year cycle of activity, more sunspots and more flares are likely in the near future.