Sunspot AR 1967 near the southeastern limb of the sun is producing M-Class solar flares about every two hours. Lockheed Martin Solar and Astrophysics Lab researchers Sam Freeland created a 12.5 interest compressed movie of the extremely active region of the sun. The colorful auroras and solar winds blowing at 1.1 million MPH in the video are a sampling of upcoming activity, according to NOAA forecasters.
None of the solar flare eruptions have yet been directed towards Earth – so far. Space weather experts are predicting that future flares stemming from sunspot AR 1967 will be in the direction of the planet as it makes a slow turn. NOAA scientists have doubled the odds (now a 10 percent chance) that during the next 24 hours an X-Class solar flare will occur.
A solar flare occurs when stored energy in twisted magnetic fields on the sun explodes. The flares generate a radiation burst across the electromagnetic spectrum. Scientists categorize solar flares according to the x-ray brightness in wavelength. The three classification include X-Class solar flares, which are massive in strength and such major events can trigger long-lasting radiation storms and Earth-wide radio blackouts. M-Class solar flares are medium size and can cause temporary blackouts, particularly at the polar regions of the minor. C-Class flares are the smallest and weakest variety of solar eruptions. Each category of solar flare contains nine strength levels.
The dark primary core of sunspot AR 1967 is approximately twice as wide as planet Earth. The massive size reportedly allows even small telescopes equipped with sola filters to view the activity. Langkawi National Observatory astronomer Karaman Ahmad captured an image of the sunspot during the early morning hours today. “I wanted to take a closer look at the monster numbered AR 1967. It is impressive,” Ahmed said.
On January 28 NASA all-sky cameras reported seven visible fireballs, Spaceweather reports. Each night NASA’s Meteroroid Environment Office tabulates the orbits of fireballs via high-tech automated software. The data also alerts researchers to fireball velocity and penetration in the Earth’s atmosphere.
The fragility and overly-taxed nature of the power grid leaves the nation’s electrical system extremely vulnerable to solar activity. If a solar flare or coronal mass ejection (CME) causes a grid down scenario, the country would instantly be jetted back into an 1800s existence. An increase in solar flares near the peak of the 11-year Sun cycle shouldn’t but thought of as unusual, but since this solar maximum has been “noticeably mellow” scientists are taking note of the uptick in activity. The Sun remained unusually quiet over the summer months, prompting surprise among NOAA and NASA weather experts when multiple M-class and X-class solar flares began occurring in October 23. X-class flares are the most powerful solar storms.