Any lapse in solar activity we may have seen during this period of “solar maximum” came to an end this weekend with some very energetic flares and CMEs, including the one seen above: an M8.7-class flare spotted by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) at 3:49 UT this morning.
This comes just 4 days after a strong CME sent a cloud of charged solar particles Earthward on Jan. 19, which impacted our magnetosphere on the afternoon of the 22nd, causing brilliant displays of aurorae around the northern latitudes. (See a gallery of aurora photos on Universe Today.)
Today’s flare has the potential of causing the largest solar storm experienced on Earth since 2005… in addition to more aurorae in the coming nights, some electromagnetic interference may occur.
“On the NOAA scale of radiation storms, this one ranks S3, which means it could cause isolated reboots of computers onboard Earth-orbiting satellites and interfere with polar radio communications.”
– via SpaceWeather.com
See an animation of the expelled solar material heading toward Earth via ESA’s SOHO spacecraft here.
Image courtesy NASA/SDO and the AIA team. Edited by J. Major.