Three massive solar flares, including what NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) says is the largest solar flare of the current 11-year solar cycle, exploded from the Sun on Tuesday.

The X8.7 flare was seen blasting out of the active sunspot region of the Sun, which is responsible for the recent solar weather, including the dazzling display of Northern Lights that stretched across the nation on Friday night.

An X flare is the most intense, and the number represents its strength. “Region 3664 produced yet another X-ray flare as it moves beyond the Western solar limb,” the SWPC said. “This time, it was an X8.7 flare, the largest of this solar cycle.”


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But unlike the previous X-class flares last week, this flare was not directed at Earth and isn’t expected to cause any intense geomagnetic storming or large scale communication issues, aside from temporary degradation of high frequency radio signals on the sunlit side of Earth. Two other solar flares, an X1.7 and X1.2, were seen blasting away from the Sun before the X8.7 flare was detected.

Before the latest solar flare let loose, the SWPC said a coronal mass ejection, an eruption of solar material from the Sun, could arrive at Earth and increase geomagnetic activity.

The SWPC had issued a G2 “moderate” Geomagnetic Storm Watch for Tuesday, but said watches at that level are not uncommon. To compare, Friday’s geomagnetic storms reached the top G5 “extreme” level.