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Powerful solar flare erupts from the sun

The solar flare that erupted from the sun today is the most powerful of the year to date. Photo: NASA/SDO

The most powerful solar flare of the year so far has erupted from the sun, towards Earth, knocking out some radio communications.

The flare, which erupted in the early hours of this morning and was captured on camera by NASA, has been classified as an M6.5 flare, some ten times less powerful than the strongest flares, which are called X-class flares.

NASA says increased numbers of flare are quite common at the moment since the sun's normal 11-year activity cycle is ramping up toward solar maximum, which is expected in late 2013.

"This is the strongest flare seen so far in 2013," NASA spokeswoman Karen Fox explained in a statement. "Increased numbers of flares are quite common at the moment, since the sun's normal 11-year cycle is ramping up toward solar maximum, which is expected in late 2013."

Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation, explains NASA. Harmful radiation from a flare cannot pass through Earth's atmosphere to physically affect humans on the ground, however - when intense enough - they can disturb the atmosphere in the layer where GPS and communications signals travel. This disrupts the radio signals for as long as the flare is ongoing, anywhere from minutes to hours - which happened with this latest flare.