Massive solar flare hits Earth

Last Updated: Saturday, July 14, 2012 - 10:42

Zeenews Bureau

Washington: A huge solar storm, the second major flare to erupt from the Sun in less than a week, triggered a coronal mass ejection which reached the Earth on Saturday, scientists claimed.

The powerful flare unleashed on Thursday sent a wave of plasma toward Earth at a speed of about 1,400 km per second and reportedly reached the planet by 5:00 GMT (10:30 am India time) today. While the flare was expected to spark a minor geomagnetic storm, there was nothing to worry for power stations, satellites and astronauts, the scientists said.

"It erupted from Active Region 1520, which rotated into view on July 6," NASA officials said in an alert. Active Region 1520 (AR1520) is a giant sunspot facing towards Earth.

According to NASA and the Space Weather Prediction Center (SPWC) the sun storm registered as an X1.4-class solar flare which is more powerful than the X1.1 flare that erupted on July 6 from another giant sunspot known as AR1515, making this latest tempest the strongest solar storm of the summer so far.

The sunspot region AR1520 could be up to 186,411 miles (300,000 km) long at its peak. It is about 50 per cent larger than last week`s sunspot AR1515, solar astrophysicist Alex Young of NASA`s Goddard Space Flight Center told SPACE.Com.

"It`s quite extensive," Young said, adding that sunspots the size of AR1520 are normal as the sun nears its peak of its weather cycle in 2013.

But while sunspot AR1520 may sound like a solar behemoth, it`s actually a relatively modest sunspot, which promises more sun storms to come, Dean Pesnell at NASA`s Solar Dynamics Observatory said.

"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," Pesnell said.

Because the solar flare erupted toward Earth, it sent a wave of charged particles toward our planet that could slightly amp up northern lights displays.

It caused a strong radio blackout for some high-frequency communications systems, according to SWPC officials. "But at this point, I think the impact is going to be relatively minor," Young added.

X-class solar flares are the strongest type of storms that occur on the sun. When aimed at Earth, the most powerful X-class flares can endanger satellites and astronauts in space, interfere with navigation and communications signals, and damage power system infrastructure on our planet.

(With PTI inputs)



First Published: Friday, July 13, 2012 - 19:53

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