Sun Produces Biggest Solar Flare Of The Year

The most powerful category of sun storms is known as an X-class solar flare, and the latest one erupted from Active Region 2339 (AR2339) this Tuesday. According to the activity peaked at 6:11 p.m., but major problems are unlikely to be experienced on Earth, writes Michael Casey for CBS.

Earth seemingly escapes radiation storm from the solar flare

“Given the impulsive nature of this event, as well as the source location on the eastern limb of the sun, we are not expecting a radiation storm at Earth,” according to scientists with the U.S. Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) in Boulder, Colorado.

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“We will be on the lookout for new imagery from the NASA SOHO [Solar and Heliospheric Observatory] mission to determine if there was an associated coronal mass ejection (CME) with this event,” they added. “Given the same logic above, however, we do not expect there to be one that would impact Earth.”

CMEs that hit Earth can cause geomagnetic storms which are capable of affecting power grids and satellite navigation systems. The last solar storm to affect Earth came in March, although no damage was caused. However one side effect was that the northern lights were pushed further south than usual.

Solar activity set to increase

Although it seems as though we were lucky to avoid a CME in this instance, scientists predict that more activity will occur in the near future. “We have observed a few energetic CMEs on the back side of the sun with these regions, so we expect that overall solar activity will be on the rise in the short to medium term.”

As well as solar flares, astronomers were also treated to the sight of a huge burst of plasma rising from the surface of the Sun on April 28 and 29. The phenomenon is known as an elongated solar filament, and the latest occurrence extended almost halfway across the sun’s visible hemisphere.

Images taken by the joint ESA/NASA Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) make the filament look like a wisp of smoke rising from the sun. Special equipment, known as LASCO, on board the SOHO make images of the sun possible. LASCO stands for Large Angle Spectrometric Coronagraph, and it creates an artificial eclipse inside the instrument, enabling it to capture images of the solar corona.