The Sun has been very active lately, sending out scorching flares and frying communication systems back on Earth.

The latest one was recorded on Monday when an X-class solar flare disrupted radio and navigation signals across North America.

‘X-class’ solar flares are the largest, most disruptive of flares and this one, classified as an X1.5, likely disrupted high-frequency radio communications on the sunlit side of Earth.

According to the Met Office, the flare burst out of the largest and most active sunspot group currently visible on the Sun’s disk.

This was the 20th X flare of the current 11-year solar cycle, which is due to reach its peak next year.

Monday’s flare followed another weaker X-class solar flare just two days earlier. The activity was detected by Nasa’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) which captured an image of the action.

Solar flares are powerful bursts of energy that can impact radio communications, electric power grids, navigation signals, and pose risks to spacecraft and astronauts.

The Sun has seen a flurry of activity on its surface this year, with Nasa astronomers spotting multiple ‘coronal holes’ on our star.

The Sun’s magnetic field goes through a ‘solar cycle’ approximately every 11 years. We are currently in Solar Cycle 25, which forecasters didn’t expect to be this strong.

Nasa observes the Sun and our space environment constantly with a fleet of spacecraft that study everything from the Sun’s activity to the solar atmosphere, particles and magnetic fields in the space surrounding Earth.

Now, it may be on track to rival some of the stronger cycles of the 20th century.

The monthly average sunspot number for June 2023 was 163, according to the Royal Observatory of Belgium’s Solar Influences Data Analysis Center. This is more than every month since September 2022.

The last time sunspot numbers were this high, the Sun was on the verge of launching the Great Halloween Storms of 2003, which included the strongest X-ray solar flare ever recorded (X45), auroras as far as the south of the US and a coronal mass ejection (CME) so powerful it was ultimately detected by the Voyager spacecraft at the edge of the solar system.

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