The sun erupted with one of the largest solar flares of this solar cycle on March 6, 2012 at 7PM EST. 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.

In association with these flares, the sun also expelled two significant coronal mass ejections (CMEs). In the meantime, 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

NASA’s models predict that the CMEs will impact both Earth and Mars, as well as pass by several NASA spacecraft – Messenger, Spitzer, and STEREO-B. The models also predict that the leading edge of the first CME will reach Earth at about 1:25 AM EST on the morning of March 8 (plus or minus 7 hours). Such a CME could result in a severe geomagnetic storm, causing aurora at low latitudes, with possible disruption to high frequency radio communication, global positioning systems (GPS), and power grids.

Continue reading and see more images and video at: NASA – Second Biggest Flare Of the Solar Cycle.

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