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Bad news for GPS: Sun releases three powerful flares in two days (PHOTOS, VIDEO)

Published time: June 11, 2014 19:38
Three X-class flares erupted from the left side of the sun June 10-11, 2014. These images are from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory and show light in a blend of two ultraviolet wavelengths: 171 and 131 angstroms.
(Image Credit: NASA / SDO)

Three X-class flares erupted from the left side of the sun June 10-11, 2014. These images are from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory and show light in a blend of two ultraviolet wavelengths: 171 and 131 angstroms. (Image Credit: NASA / SDO)

Cameras used by scientists at NASA have captured images of “significant” solar flares emitting from the sun this week.

On Wednesday, NASA reported, a third solar “X-class” flare was recorded in a span of just two days.

The flares — short-lived but incredibly powerful bursts of radiation that bring goodies from the sun like gases, plasma and other matters in the solar system — are not entirely unusual. At least two of this week’s events have been larger than normal, though, and may interfere with high-frequency radio communications and GPS signals million miles away, according to NASA.

Scientists said that the first significant solar flare was recorded early Tuesday by NASA cameras that capture activity on the sun 24 hours a day. That flare, spotted at around 7:41 a.m. EDT, was classified as an X2.2 flare — more than double the strength as an X1-level flare. Around an hour later, scientists saw an X1.5 flare, then an X1.0 early Wednesday.

The second X-class flare of June 10, 2014, appears as a bright flash on the left side of this image from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory. This image shows light in the 193-angstrom wavelength, which is typically colorized in yellow. It was captured at 8:55 a.m EDT, just after the flare peaked. (Image Credit: NASA / SDO)

NASA said in a statement that "Analysis is underway to determine potential impacts at Earth.” In the meantime, though, more incidents could be expected.

“There is the chance that additional flares could occur in the following days,” Katy Galimberti wrote Wednesday for AccuWeather. As the sun rotates, the flares could travel in a more direct path towards the Earth. The radiation from such a flare may cause radio wave disturbances to electronics, such as cell phones, GPS and radios, causing services to occasionally cut in and out.

Mark Paquette, a meteorologist with the weather site, told Galimberti that solar flares are like a “burp” from the sun.

"The 'burp' releases a stream of particles that comes away from the sun's surface and sets the whole thing in motion," he said.

According to Space.com, the latest flare on Wednesday was the eighth documented example so far in 2014 of an X-level event—the strongest of the solar flares. Even the X2.2 spotted this week was small compared to the strongest in recent months, though: in February, NASA cameras caught a colossal X4.9 glare occur on the sun.

A solar flare bursts off the left limb of the sun in this image captured by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory on June 10, 2014, at 7:41 a.m. EDT. This is classified as an X2.2 flare, shown in a blend of two wavelengths of light: 171 and 131 angstroms, colorized in gold and red, respectively. (Image Credit: NASA / SDO / Goddard / Wiessinger)