Solar Flare 2012
One of the most powerful solar storms in the last five years was unleashed yesterday after a gigantic solar flare erupted from the surface of the sun. Space weather scientists are narrowly watching the sun’s activity as the storm could affected satellite communication and power grids.
Joseph Kunches, from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), said:
“Space weather has gotten very interesting over the last 24 hours… When the shock arrives, the expectation is for heightened geomagnetic storm activity and the potential for heightened solar radiation… There is the potential for induced currents in power grids… Power grid operators have all been alerted. It could start to cause some unwanted induced currents.”
NASA captured a video of the solar flare as it blew up and threw a “huge amount of magnetized material” toward the earth. The AR1429 sunspot region shouts off a solar flare on Sunday and two more yesterday. The AR1429 region is at present pointing almost directly at earth which means that the solar mass ejection could have a big collision on earth
Harlan Spence, an astrophysicist at the University of New Hampshire, told:
“The sun is waking up at a time in the month when Earth is coming into harm’s way. Think of these CMEs somewhat like a bullet that is shot from the sun in more or less a straight line. When the sunspot is right in the middle of the sun, something launched from there is more or less directed right at Earth. It’s kind of like how getting sideswiped by a car is different than a head-on collision. Even still, being sideswiped by a big CME can be quite dramatic.”
Solar Flares 2012: Sun Emits Gigantic Fiery Blast
On Oct 22, 2012, the sun released a massive
solar flare that peaked at 2:51 p.m. EDT. It originated from the recently named AR 1598 sunspot, which has already emitted several weaker flares. This flare was directed away from the Earth, but as AR 1598 turns towards us in the next few days it may send one our way. Looking farther in the future, the frequency of such flares is expected to increase in the next two years as the sun’s 11-year cycle ramps up to its peak in 2013. This cycle in flares signal a deeper cycle: the switching of the sun’s magnetic poles, which reverse their polarity every 11 years.
Before you build a bunker to hide from the impending increase in solar flares, though, keep in mind that any harmful radiation cannot pass through the Earth’s atmosphere to affect people on the ground. At most, they are able to affect satellites, radio and other electronic devices. The Oct. 22 flare knocked out high-frequency radio for a short period.
Solar flares are an intense emission of electromagnetic radiation at all frequencies — ranging from radio waves to visible light to X and gamma rays. This was an especially large, X1.8-class flare, and it is the fifteenth X-class flare in this solar cycle. X is the largest class; as for the numbers, an X2 would be twice as intense as an X1. The previous flares from AR1598 were given an M classification, which is one step down from X, and corresponds to an order of magnitude less electromagnetic flux.
Occasionally, when very large solar flares are associated with a coronal mass ejection — essentially a stream of charged particles — they can even knock out electrical power. The most recent Oct. 22 solar flare did not have a coronal mass ejection; however, the two are often associated with each other.
Coronal mass ejections, though they are known to interfere with GPS and electrical power, have their upsides too. The aurora borealis is caused by the interaction of those charged particles with the Earth’s magnetic field, creating brilliant displays of light and color near the poles.