Earth to be Hit by Biggest Solar Flare in Years

  on June 08 2011 7:33 AM
Sunspots
Sunspot Active Region 1302 could potentially blow electrical circuits around the world IBTimes/NASA

The sun emitted an unusual solar flare, a small radiation storm and a spectacular coronal mass ejection (CME) from a sunspot complex on the solar surface, on Tuesday. The flare peaked at 1:41 a.m. ET, according to NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO).

The US National Weather Service (NWS) said in a statement that the solar flare released radiation not witnessed since 2006, with the present one measured by NASA as M-2 or medium sized solar flare that carries a substantial coronal mass ejection (CME) ... and is visually spectacular.

At most, the NWS said that the eruption will likely bring minor (G1) to moderate (G2) levels of geomagnetic storm activities, which could disturb Earth's power grids and global positioning systems that heavily rely on satellite communications.

The Sun released a moderate-classed solar flare (M2) and an S1-class (minor) radiation storm that will likely lead to moderate geomagnetic storm activity by Wednesday, which could disrupt communications and grids in some locations. This flare was a different kind because it started out slow, then the sun blasted it off like a volcanic eruption.

According to NASA models, the CME is moving at 1400 km/s. This radiation storm did not squarely blow to Earth, but it should deliver a glancing blow to Earth's magnetic field during the late hours of June 8th or June 9th.

High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for Auroras or Aurora Borealis, also known as Northern lights, which are created as a result of some natural mechanism between solar wind, ions flow, Earth's magnetic field and collisions between ions and atmospheric atoms and molecules that cause energy releases in the form of colorful lights.

The aurora borealis (Northern Lights) and aurora australis (Southern Lights) will likely be visible in the late hours of June 8 or 9.

“We don't expect it to be any kind of a real severe one but it could be kind of a moderate level storm. The event is expected to cause G1 (minor) to G2 (moderate) levels of geomagnetic storm activity Wednesday, June 8, beginning around 1800 GMT.” Said the Space Weather Prediction Center, reported AFP.

SDO's images show a very large eruption of cool gas. It is somewhat unique as at many places in the eruption there seems to be even cooler material -- at temperatures less than 80,000 degrees Kelvin.

Earlier Earth experienced category G1 (Minor) and G2 (Moderate) geomagnetic storms on May 28 to 29 due to a coronal hole high-speed solar wind stream. Bright auroras at high latitudes were visible at both poles of the Earth, including Tasmania, New Zealand, Antarctica, Wisconsin and Minnesota.

While a strong solar flare increases the chance of a spectacular light show, the electromagnetic pulse can also disrupt satellite communications, power grids and radio traffic when it passes the Earth. Some industries that are usually affected by solar flares include electrical power grid companies, airlines, GPS, military and ocean shipping routes.

The strongest solar storm on record is called the “Carrington Event”, which is named after Richard Carrington who viewed and reported on the solar flare of September 1st. It occurred in late August and early September of 1859. From August 28th through September 4th, aurorae of unusual brilliance were observed throughout the globe.

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