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article imageSun flare disrupts radio — New geomagnetic storm predicted

By Stephen Morgan     Mar 13, 2015 in Science
The strongest solar explosion this year took down radio communications on Wednesday. Further disruption is expected today and tomorrow when another geomagnetic storm hits.
The solar flare which exploded two days ago was equal to the force of millions of 100-megaton atomic bombs. The effects are still rippling towards us and are expected to provoke another geomagnetic storm over the weekend.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said with regard to Wednesday's storm,
"An R3 (Strong) Radio Blackout peaked at 1622 UTC (12:22pm EDT) today, March 11. This is yet another significant solar flare from Active Region 12297 as it marches across the solar disk. This is the largest flare the region has produced so far, after producing a slew of R1 (Minor) and R2 (Moderate) Radio Blackouts over the past few days."
The solar flare on Wednesday was a X2.2-class flare. According to NASA, these flares are the most severe.
"The biggest flares are known as 'X-class flares' based on a classification system that divides solar flares according to their strength. The smallest ones are A-class (near background levels), followed by B, C, M and X."
NOAA is forecasting a 70 percent possibility of M-class flares and a 20% chance of X-flares in the coming days.
SpaceWeather.com says,
"The combined effects of these storms have prompted a G1 (Minor) geomagnetic storm watch to be issued, with the possibility of additional or upgraded watches if/when additional data can be analysed."
Solar flares like this can lead to blackouts and disrupt or block radio and other communications. They can also damage satellites and have adverse effects on GPS and other electronic devises, says the Independent.
Solar flares erupt following the build up of magnetic energy in the sun's atmosphere, especially where sunspots are active. They emit huge bursts of radiation and, while they can disrupt communications, the Earth's atmosphere blocks it from harming us on the surface.
Coronal mass ejections (CME) frequently accompany solar flares. They are clouds of superheated plasma which travel through space at millions of miles per hour. Scientists are unclear what the relationship is between solar flares and CMEs.
If you're looking to the skies today, it should be a good day for observers. According to SpaceWeather,
"Friday the 13th could be a lucky day for sky watchers. Several minor CMEs propelled toward Earth earlier this week by active sunspot AR2297 are expected to arrive en masse on March 13th. Their collective impact could spark bright auroras around the Arctic Circle."
More about Solar, Sun, flare, Communications, Disrupts
 
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