Feeds

Sun belches wonking solar flare

Get out your tinfoil hats

Build a business case: developing custom apps

Sol is having a bit of fusion indigestion again and has belched forth one of the largest solar flares to come hurtling towards Earth in the past five years, according to NASA.

NASA said in a statement that the solar flare on March 6 at 7 PM Eastern time weighed in at X5.4 on the solar flare scale. The flare came from an area known as Active Region 1429, a belchy spot in the solar surface rolled into view on March 2.

Solar flares are classified based on the energy of X-rays (in the 100 to 800 picometer range) smacking the Earth as measured in watts per square meter. A fairly strong M-class flare has 10-5 to 10-4 watts per meter of peak flux, while the top-end X-class flares generate more than 10-4 of peak flux. The scale is linear within each class, so an X5 flare is five times as strong as an X1 flare. The X-ray measurements are taken by the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite system from orbit, which is operated by the US National Weather Service.

That X5.4 rating on the March 6 flare makes it the second most powerful flare since the Sun hit the lull in its 11-year cycle back in early 2007. Solar flare activity is expected to rise through 2013, provided the world (and perhaps the Sun) doesn't end on December 21, 2012 as the Maya – how convenient for them to be extinct, eh? – predicted.

Solar flare, March 6

X5.4 marks the spot – everybody duck!

By the way, the Maya are not extinct, they just abandoned their cities before the Spanish got there and melded into the jungle, and the 5,125-year Mayan Long Count calendar just hits reset on December 21, 2012. It's a clock, not a detonator. So we do, in fact, have to learn to get along.

A little more than an hour after the first belch on March 6, a flare rated at X1.3 erupted from the same area of the Sun's surface. The flares were pointing Earthside and triggered temporary radio blackouts, interfering with radio navigation and shortwave radio, according to NASA, and also coincided with two "significant" coronal mass ejections. A flare from March 4 is dumping electrically charged particles in the magnetic fields of Earth right now, and depending on how the flare is oriented this time, we could get whacked again, and a bit stronger.

The last big flare pair was an X6.5 one on December 5, 2006, which was followed up the next day by an X9.0 whopper from the same area. There was an X6.9 flare on August 9 last year.

NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center put out its own statement, with M-class burping expected in the AR1429 region today, with the Earth's geomagnetic field to be "unsettled to active" in the next 24 hours because of all the solar activity. Everything should quiet down by Friday, and if you live in the Northern Hemisphere, might be a good time for some romantic aurora borealis viewing.

These flares and related coronal mass ejections are nowhere near as powerful as the March 9, 1989 flare, which energized a severe magnetic storm in Canada and knocked out the power grid. (The GOES system was not in use then for measuring geomagnetic storms.) And the mother of all modern geomagnetic storms, on September 1 and 2, 1859, was hot enough to shock telegraph operators directly and the aurora reached down into the tropics. ®

Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable

More from The Register

next story
Asteroid's SHOCK DINO KILLING SPREE just bad luck - boffins
Sauricide WASN'T inevitable, reckon scientists
BEST BATTERY EVER: All lithium, all the time, plus a dash of carbon nano-stuff
We have found the Holy Grail (of batteries) - boffins
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
Famous 'Dish' radio telescope to be emptied in budget crisis: CSIRO
Radio astronomy suffering to protect Square Kilometre Array
Bad back? Show some spine and stop popping paracetamol
Study finds common pain-killer doesn't reduce pain or shorten recovery
Forty-five years ago: FOOTPRINTS FOUND ON MOON
NASA won't be back any time soon, sadly
Jurassic squawk: Dinos were Earth's early FEATHERED friends
Boffins research: Ancient dinos may all have had 'potential' fluff
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.