Thursday, March 29, 2012

NASA: Solar Flare Generating Sun Spot Is Back


CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida -- The solar flare generating sun spot has returned after a two week revolution around the sun.  The sun spot, named Sunspot AR1429 will once again be pointed towards the Earth in the upcoming week.


The sunspot generated one of the largest solar flares of this solar cycle on March 6, 2012 at 7PM ET. This flare was categorized as an X5.4, making it the second largest flare -- after an X6.9 on August 9, 2011 -- since the sun’s activity segued into a period of relatively low activity called solar minimum in early 2007.  The current increase in the number of X-class flares is part of the sun’s normal 11-year solar cycle, during which activity on the sun ramps up to solar maximum, which is expected to peak in late 2013. 


About an hour later, at 8:14 PM ET, March 6, the same region let loose an X1.3 class flare. An X1 is 5 times smaller than an X5 flare.


These X-class flares erupted from the AR 1429 region that rotated into view on March 2.   Prior to this, the region had already produced numerous M-class and one X-class flare. The region continued to rotate across the front of the sun, so the March 6 flare was more Earthward facing than the previous ones. It triggered a temporary radio blackout on the sunlit side of Earth that interfered with radio navigation and short wave radio.


In association with these flares, the sun also expelled two significant coronal mass ejections (CMEs), which traveled faster than 600 miles a second towards Earth.  


The CME associated with the X-class flare from March 4 has dumped solar particles and magnetic fields into Earth’s atmosphere and distorted Earth's magnetic fields, causing a moderate geomagnetic storm, rated a G2 on a scale from G1 to G5. Such storms happen when the magnetic fields around Earth rapidly change strength and shape. A moderate storm usually causes aurora and may interfere with high frequency radio transmission near the poles. 

Image Credit: NASA Photo. Original Image Cropped By Brevard Times.

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