The gigantic sunspot known as AR1520 released another powerful solar flare early on Thursday July 19th. The solar storm isn’t expected to pose any serious problems to us here on Earth, researchers say.
The solar flare erupted from AR 1520 at 1:13 a.m. EDT (0513 GMT) Thursday and peaked about 45 minutes later. The flare is categorized as an M7.7-class solar flare, meaning it’s a fair bit weaker than the sun’s strongest flares, the X-class ones.
“The sun storm also produced a coronal mass ejection (CME), a huge eruption of solar plasma that can streak through space at speeds of 3 million mph (5 million kph) or more. CMEs that hit Earth can wreak havoc, spawning geomagnetic storms that can disrupt GPS signals, radio communications and power grids.”
“NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, a spacecraft that constantly watches the sun in different wavelengths of light, recorded a video of the solar flare as it appeared to erupt from the edge of the sun.”
“Modeling efforts suggest Thursday’s CME is not headed our way, NASA researchers said. The flare also generated a minor radiation storm around Earth, but it doesn’t appear to be dangerous to astronauts or satellites.”
“The S1 (minor) Solar Radiation Storm persists, but should steadily decline through the day,” scientists with the Space Weather Prediction Center, which is operated by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, wrote in an update today (July 20).
“The outburst was not the first for AR 1520, which researchers say could be 186,000 miles (300,000 kilometers) long. Last week, it shot out an X1.4 flare, the strongest of the summer to that point but not the most powerful flare of the year. That distinction goes to an X5.4 behemoth that erupted in March.”
The sun was mostly quiet from 2005 to 2010, but began waking up last year, releasing numerous powerful flares and CMEs.
Such storms are likely to continue over the next year or so as the solar cycle approaches its peak. Solar activity increases and diminishes on an 11-year cycle, and it’s expected that the current one, known as Solar Cycle 24, will peak in 2013.
Image Credits: NASA/SDO