Big sunspot AR1429 has unleashed another major flare. This one is the strongest yet, an X5-class eruption on March 7th at 00:28 UT. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory recorded the extreme UV flash.
This eruption hurled a bright CME into space. First-look data from STEREO-B are not sufficient to determine if the cloud is heading for Earth. Our best guess is "probably, yes, but not directly toward Earth." A glancing blow to our planet's magnetosphere is possible on March 8th or 9th. Stay tuned for updates.
UPDATE: Analysts at the Goddard Space Weather Lab estimate that the CME will reach Earth on March 8th at 0625 UT (+/- 7 hr), possibly triggering a strong-to-extreme geomagnetic storm. An animated forecast track shows the progression of the fast-moving cloud. The flare also accelerated energetic protons toward Earth, triggering an S3-class solar radiation storm, in progress. Such a storm is mainly a nuisance to satellites, causing occasional reboots of onboard computers and adding noise to imaging systems. www.spaceweather.com
_CME IMPACT: As expected, a CME hit Earth's magnetic field on Jan. 24th at approximately 1500 UT (10 am EST). Geomagnetic storms are likely in the hours ahead. If it's dark where you live, go outside and look for auroras.
In Lofoton, Norway, the CME's arrival produced a surge in ground currents outside the laboratory of Rob Stammes:
"The expected CME arrived and showed up on my instruments at 15.10 UTC--a fantastic shockwave followed by a magnetic storm," says Stammes.
"This could be a happy day for many aurora watchers."
Information: Proton Flux
The sun is a big mass of energy. The sun produces high energy protons, and the solar wind carries these protons towards our planet. During solar flare activity, energetic protons are blown violently outwards... sometimes towards earth. Energetic protons can reach Earth within 30 minutes of a major flare's peak. During such an event (big ones are also known as Solar Proton Events), Earth is showered with highly energetic solar particles (primarily protons) released from the flare site. When these protons arrive at Earth and enter the atmosphere over the polar regions, much enhanced ionization is produced at altitudes below 100 km. Ionization at these low altitudes is particularly effective in absorbing HF radio signals and can render HF communications impossible throughout the polar regions. This effect is called Radio Blackouts. This type of event is also known as a Polar Cap Absorption Event or PCA. http://www.solarham.com/proton.html
Strongest Radiation Storm since 2003
The solar proton flux continues at high levels. After the CME impacted Earth this morning, it reached even higher (6300 pfu) and is now the largest radiation storm since October 2003. A Strong S3 Level radiation storm remains in progress.
This section is for interesting items which are brought to my attention but which do not merit a separate article.
I welcome your comments, questions or suggestions on any topics you wish to contribute to this section.