Active sunspot fires solar flares, CME toward Earth

Active sunspot fires solar flares, CME toward Earth

Summary: Four powerful solar flares and CMEs have erupted from a sunspot over the past few days, and one could affect us on late Friday.

TOPICS: Nasa / Space

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  • (Image: NASA/SDO)

    Sunspot AR1748

    The sun is sending fireworks to perhaps celebrate the debut of the latest "Star Trek Into Darkness" movie, which has been released this week. Sunspot AR1748 has discharged four powerful solar flares in the past few days, is expected to be more active, and is rotating into more direct view across the sun's near side. Flares are also connected with coronal mass ejections (CMEs). Of the four CMEs created this week, NOAA space weather forecasters say there's a 40 percent chance that the most recent one could bounce off Earth on May 17.

    Solar flares are powerful bursts that send light and radiation into space. CMEs, usually produced in conjunction with solar flares, erupt from the sun and send billions of tonnes of solar material into space. They are not directly dangerous to us, but can disrupt atmospheric communications services such as GPS and cell phones. While personal disruptions can be annoying, GPS airline navigation and extremely accurate clocks that govern financial transactions could be affected.

    The current quartet of solar flares has been categorized to reach the highest measuring category, X-class, with the highest of the four given an X-3.2 rating. It is the 18th X-class flare of the current solar season.

    The good news is that NASA's observation satellites and NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center are constantly monitoring space activity, and can give warnings, similar to hurricane warnings, when potentially dangerous solar activity is approaching.

    Another highlight is the appearance of auroras.

    Above is sunspot AR1748.

  • (Image: NASA/SDO)

    May 14 flare

    2013 is currently at the solar maximum, which is the most active part of the sun's 11-year cycle of solar flare activity.

    Solar flares erupt with tremendous heat, but don't worry; it dissipates before reaching Earth. But they can temporarily alter the upper atmosphere and create memorable disruptions. Your GPS could send you to the wrong location.

    NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory captured this image of the X1.2 class solar flare on May 14.

Topic: Nasa / Space

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  • I have seen some strange

    things that resulted from such solar flares. I have had a series of data corruptions in weather station data loggers from solar flares. All data corruptions were at the same time across a network of 23 crop weather stations along the Texas Gulf Coastal Plains.

    A good friend of mine was the GM of an FM Radio Station in Corpus Christi in 1991 when extreme solar flare activity was peaking. The station advertised an 800 phone number for listeners outside the local market to call into. During the peak solar flare period of several days the radio station began getting calls fro Atlanta Georgia cab drivers. The Atlanta Yellow Cab drivers all started tuning into the station and calling the 800 line to comment on how much they liked the format of the radio station. They got so many calls from Atlanta cab drivers that they started running promo commercials with the compliments from the cabies in Atlanta. Talk about Rockin the Gulf Coast!