Fiercest Solar Flare of 2012 Yet: X Class – January 28/29

Fiercest Solar Flare of 2012 Yet: X Class – January 28/29

In the last week or so we’ve been reporting on solar flares that have been released and solar storms impacting earth, with more intense northern lights displays and concerns that radio communications and satellites could be disrupted. We can now tell you that yesterday the largest solar flare yet of 2012 occurred, this time an X-class eruption.

Recently the two solar flares we’ve reported on have both created M-class storms, falling in the mid-range. However the solar eruption that has now been unleashed has been categorized as an X1.7-class storm, with X-class being the strongest type, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The powerful flare yesterday (Jan 27) occurred at 1:37 pm EST but unlike the last solar flares this latest CME (coronal mass ejection) was not aiming at earth. However a radiation storm is still possible and the situation will continue to be monitored closely.

Sunspot 1402 was the catalyst of this X-class flare, the same area that sent a blast towards Earth last week and caused the strongest radiation storm since 2003. Cautions about geomagnetic activity were issued and some plane routes even diverted around the polar regions. Spaceweather.com reports that this time the sunspot in question was not facing Earth at the time of the eruption. Space.com explains that X-class flares straight towards Earth can cause space satellite disturbances and interference with communications and power grids. They can also be a concern for the astronauts aboard the International Space Station.

Because of this NOAA has issued a radiation storm warning with officials releasing a statement saying, “The warning is in effect for the next 24 hours.” The NOAA has also issued radio blackouts. NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center physicist Doug Biesecker informs that despite the fact that radiation levels are currently rising, the solar storm impact is not anticipated to be any worse than during last week. On some occasions skywatchers at high latitudes are able to observe spectacular northern lights (auroras) at times of solar storms and SpaceWeather.com tells how a solar wind stream coming towards Earth means a 15% chance of geomagnetic storms on January 28 and 29 at high altitudes.

With this 11-year cycle of solar activity set to peak in 2013 at the solar maximum, we can only imagine how many more solar storms we might see over the next year or so and what the impacts could be. Send us your thoughts on this latest solar storm? Have you enjoyed any amazing northern light displays because of the recent activity?

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