July 15th, 2012 by James Ayre
The strongest solar flare of the summer, an X1.4-class flare, just erupted on July 12th. It was the second X-class solar flare in just one week. It peaked at 12:52 p.m. EDT (1652 GMT) on the 12th.
The massive X-class flare included a powerful coronal mass ejection. The CME, a mass of charged solar plasma sent toward Earth, was expected to arrive sometime on the 14th, according to forecasts by NASA and the NOAA-run Space Weather Prediction Center in Colorado. CME’s can greatly amplify Earth’s northern lights, the aurora borealis, making them visible very far south if the storm is big enough.
“As the forerunner solar wind protons continue a steady increase, indicators that the CME is on the way, the wait continues for it to impact the Earth’s magnetic field,” center officials wrote in an update. “Look for that in the next few hours.”
This solar storm originated from one of the strongest solar flares to occur this year. The flare occurred as an X1.4-class sun storm, one of the strongest flares the sun can unleash. It was the sixth X-class solar flare of 2012.
“The solar storm erupted from the giant sunspot AR1520, or Active Region 1520, which is actually a group of sunspots that at its peak may have stretched across 186,000 miles (300,000 kilometers) of the sun’s surface, NASA scientists have said.”
“An earlier center update released late Friday stated that the solar storm could trigger a level G2 geomagnetic storm on Earth, a moderate-level event capable of sparking auroras at latitudes as low as New York or Idaho, sometime after 9 a.m. EDT. Most northern lights displays, which occur when charged solar particle interact with Earth’s upper atmosphere, are confined to high-latitude regions around the polar regions by the planet’s magnetic field.”
AR1520 is being tracked for more activity because of its potential for larger flares, as well as several other active spots on the sun.
“All eyes are on the solar wind data to note the expected passage on Saturday of a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) from Thursday’s solar event,” center officials wrote in an update late Friday (July 13).
The storm is not expected to pose any significant risks to satellites and spacecrafts that are in orbit, or to power systems on Earth, officials have said.
We are currently in the midst of the active phase of the 11-year solar weather cycle. The current cycle is numbered Solar Cycle 24. The cycle is expected to peak in 2013.
Image Credits: NASA/SDO/AIA
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