X-CLASS SOLAR FLARE TO STRIKE EARTH THIS MORNING.
Photo Credit: NASA/SDO: CLICK for larger photo and see below for information and links.
Well 2014 is starting off with some pretty spectacular events! We have the Black Moon/SuperMoon events of the 1st quarter (Read here: https://danspace77.com/2013/12/29/2014-begins-the-black-moon-new-year/) and the 1st near Earth Asteroid that was discovered on 1, 2014 (2014 AA) actually ended up impacting Earth on Jan 2! So what the heck, let’s make the 1st significant solar flare an X-Class flare & Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) headed directly at Earth as well!
NASA/ESA as well as amateur astronomers were already intrigued by the massive sunspot AR1944 as its gigantic size showed up in sunrise/sunset photos around the world. Well it as well as active region AR1943 decided to grab our attention fully as on Tuesday, January 7, 1014 around 13:32 EST (18:32 UTC) after an already busy day of mid-level flares it unleashed the most powerful solar flare of all; the X-class flare classified at a magnitude X1.2 flare. X-class flares denote the most powerful flares that the Sun unleashes (A, B, C, M or X) while the numbers associated with the letter designation (1-9) provide data on its strength. For example an X2 flare is twice as powerful as an X1 flare and an X3 flare is three times more powerful. The most powerful X-flare ever recorded was an incredible X28 in November of 2003 which was recorded by the GOES satellite. Luckily, that one wasn’t fired directly at us!
You may remember in May of 2013 sunspot AR1748 unleashed 4 X-class flares in 72 hours, three of which were in 24 hours with the most powerful being an X3.2…..so, what’s the big deal with this one?!
Well, as a sunspot comes into view it takes roughly 14 hours to traverse the disk of the Sun as we see it. What’s significant about sunspot AR1944/AR1943 and its X1.2 flare is that the group was about halfway through its transit at the time it was released so it, unlike last years, is headed for Earth! Thanks to our atmosphere we are well protected but that doesn’t mean were 100% safe from damage. Satellites, electronics, astronauts and power grids are all susceptible to the effects of solar radiation and if caught off guard the effects can be damaging. In 1989 a solar storm knocked out power to Quebec, Canada and an even more damaging solar storm occurred in 1859 leading to the title “Superstorm of 1859”.
This current storm should be impacting Earth as we speak (Weds evening on the 8th) so expect beautiful auroral activity for the next couple days as well as some minor electrical and radio disruptions. It’s predicted to generate Geomagnetic Storms of a moderate G2 to a strong G3 which correlates to a KP index of KP6 or KP7. These levels will decrease greatly through Friday, January 10. If you are in the mid-northern United States, Europe, Russia etc. go find a dark location and take advantage of the scene. Last year I concocted a small write up on how to view the aurora with many helpful links (Read here https://danspace77.com/aurora-guide/).
NASA data page of the flare: http://www.nasa.gov/content/goddard/sun-unleashes-first-x-class-flare-of-2014/
Space Weather updates page: http://www.swpc.noaa.gov/
Space Weather Live current map: http://www.spaceweatherlive.com/en/auroral-activity/auroral-oval
Space Weather main site: http://www.spaceweather.com/