July 12 X-class Solar Flare Erupted from Sun Should Hit Earth Saturday (Photo)
On July 12, 2012, the sun released it’s sixth solar flare this year. This is the second major solar storm to erupt from the sun in less than a week but it was not the strongest. The record goes to the March event which unleashed an intense X5.4-class solar flare.
The solar flare peaked at 12:52 p.m. EDT (1652 GMT) as an X-class sun storm, the most powerful type of flare the sun can have. It registered as an X1.4-class solar flare.
Sun storms come in three primary classes. The weakest storms are C-class flares, which have little to no effect on Earth. M-class flares are moderate solar storms capable of setting off a spectacular show by the Northern Lights. The strongest storms are known as X-class, capable of damaging satellites and damage power lines on Earth.
“It erupted from Active Region 1520, which rotated into view on July 6,” NASA officials said in an alert. Active Region 1520, or AR1520, is a giant sunspot currently facing Earth, at least 15 earth diameters across.
While the solar flare is not harmful to humans on the ground, it does wreak havoc on the upper atmosphere by sending ionization waves through the ionosphere, in some cases causing disruptions to global communications.
Based on the latest update from NOAA, the northern latitudes should see some brilliant auroras this weekend. This was confirmed by NASA and SWPC officials who said that the solar flare did trigger a huge eruption of solar plasma, known as a coronal mass ejection or CME.
This CME is expected to reach our planet Earth at 1 a.m. EDT (0500 GMT) on Saturday, July 14, 2012. Solar astrophysicist C. Alex Young, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, said that an early analysis of the solar phenomenon suggests that the coronal mass ejection sent a wave of plasma toward Earth at a speed of 3.1 million mph.
“It’s quite extensive. At this point, I think the impact is going to be relatively minor,” Young said, adding that sunspots the size of AR1520 are normal as the sun nears its peak of its weather cycle in 2013.
“It’s certainly not done. It’s only halfway across the face of the sun right now. We’ll be able to watch it from the Earth for at least another week,” Dean Pesnell, project scientist for NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, said noting that there will be more sun storms to come.
Currently, the sun is in the midst of an active phase of its 11-year solar weather cycle. The current cycle is called Solar Cycle 24.