Saturday, July 7, 2012

Strongest Solar Flare of Summer 2012 Erupted Friday

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida -- The Sun's very Active Region 1515 has now spit out the strongest solar flare (X-1 Class) of the 2012 Summer on Friday July 6, 2012. 
The joint NASA and NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center says that Region 1515 produced an impulsive R3 (Strong) solar flare radio blackout at 2308 UTC (7:08 PM EDT) on July 6.  Preliminary analysis indicates the coronal mass ejection (CME) associated with this event is not headed directly at Earth.  The Space Weather Prediction Center cautions that additional imagery is needed before a high-confidence WSA-Enlil model run can be done to refine that estimate.  
Solar Radiation Storm levels continue to increase slowly and are currently above the S1 (Minor) threshold.  Additionally, G1 (Minor) geomagnetic storming is possible through July 8 as a string of coronal mass ejections (CMEs) observed earlier in the week make their way past Earth.  Stay tuned for updates.
Radio blackouts occur when the X-rays or extreme UV light from a flare disturb the layer of Earth's atmosphere known as the ionosphere, through which radio waves travel.  The constant changes in the ionosphere change the paths of the radio waves as they move, thus degrading the information they carry.  This affects both high and low frequency radio waves alike. Radio blackouts are rated on a scale from R1 (minor) to R5 (extreme). An R2 radio blackout can result in limited degradation of both high- and low-frequency radio communication and GPS signals.

The strongest flares are classified as X-class, while M-class flares are the second strongest classification. Classified as an M6.1, this latest flare is a little over half the size of the weakest X-class flares.
Image Credit: NASA / SDO