On March 17, magnetic fields above Sunspot 314 erupted with an X-1 class solar flare. X level solar flares are the strongest, with the capability of creating protracted solar storms on earth, with radio blackouts and electromagnetic damage. However, X-1 is the least powerful of these great flares, and this one was not aimed directly at earth when it occurred, so it is not expected that extreme solar storms will result. But the use of sensitive radio and communications devices may be affected, which could be of significance to military operations.

The sun has remained in a state of high activity long after the most recent solar maximum was supposed to have gone into decline. During periods of high solar activity, earth?s temperatures tend to be cooler, and, according to some studies, the immune systems of animals are not as robust as they are during periods when less solar radiation is reaching the earth. A study by astrophysicist Ken Tapping and two colleagues compared flu and solar records dating back to 1729 found a statistically significant connection. There were flu epidemics, some of them killing millions of people, in 1729, 1830, 1918, 1957, 1968 and 1977, years when solar activity and flares bombarded the Earth with extra radiation and cosmic rays.

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To learn more about the sun, go to Spaceweather.com.To read a report on the relationship between solar activity and weather on Earth, click here.

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