In the past two weeks, the sun has exhibited a tremendous level of activity as violent storms have churned the surface; creating what astronomers have called a solar tsunami. During this process, sunspot 929 erupted which unleashed an X9 solar flare. X9 represents the sun’s most powerful discharge of X-ray radiation, capable of destroying satellites and knocking out terrestrial power grids. What is especially exceptional about these storms is that the sun is currently in an eleven year lull of activity.
This recent batch of solar activity came at an inconvenient time for NASA as the astronauts conduct spacewalks to repair the International Space Station. Additional solar flares, including a smaller X3 burst from sunspot 930, featured coronal mass ejections which "beef up" the usual radiation with streams of high velocity protons. While dangerous for exposed astronauts, such ejections are known for making spectacular visuals, the Aurora Borealis. To keep the astronauts safe, NASA advised them to “take a little time today to catch your breath and to look out the window in order to store future memories.”
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