Huffpost Science

Solar Flare 2012: Sun Storm Could Reach Earth By Fourth Of July

Posted: Updated:
SOLAR FLARE 2012
NASA recorded the solar flare's eruption from sunspot region AR1515. | NASA

By: Tariq Malik
Published: 07/02/2012 05:48 PM EDT on SPACE.com

The sun erupted with a powerful solar flare Monday (July 2) in an early solar fireworks display just in time for the Fourth of July. A wave of plasma from the flare could reach Earth by the U.S. Independence Day holiday on Wednesday, July 4.

The sun storm came from a large sunspot called AR1515 that is now rotating across the Earth-facing side of the sun. It unleashed an intense solar flare at 6:43 a.m. EDT (1043 GMT) today in what is expected to be one of several strong solar storms in the days ahead, space weather officials said.

Several space telescopes are monitoring the sun around the clock, with NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory spacecraft capturing video of today's solar flare.

The flare registered as a class M5.6 solar storm on the scale used by astronomers to measure the sun's weather. The sun's strongest storms come in three primary classes. The weakest storms are C-class flares, which have little effects that can be felt on Earth. M-class flares are moderate solar storms that can supercharge the Earth's northern lights displays.

The strongest solar storms are X-class events. When aimed at Earth, the most powerful X-class solar flares can endanger spacecraft and astronauts in orbit, interfere with satellite signals, as well as damage power lines and other infrastructure on the ground.

According to Spaceweather.com, a night sky observing and space weather tracking website run by astronomer Tony Phillips, the solar flare unleashed a wave of charged plasma called a coronal mass ejection (CME), but the particles were not aimed squarely at Earth.

"The eruption also hurled a CME into space, but not directly toward Earth. The south-traveling cloud could deliver a glancing blow to our planet's magnetosphere on July 4th or 5th," Spaceweather.com wrote.

Editor's note: If you snap a photo of sunspot AR1515 or any amazing northern lights photos this week and you'd like to share them for a possible story or image gallery, please send images and comments to managing editor Tariq Malik at tmalik@space.com.

You can follow SPACE.com Managing Editor Tariq Malik on Twitter @tariqjmalik. Follow SPACE.com on Twitter @Spacedotcom. We're also on Facebook and Google+.

Copyright 2012 SPACE.com, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Related on HuffPost:

Suggest a correction

Around the Web

SOLAR STORM WARNING, NASA 2012-13, PREPPERS

SpaceWeather.com -- News and information about meteor showers ...

Solar Flares Spark Geomagnetic Magnetic Storm on Earth | Space ...

Solar Flares 2012: Another Storm Coming - ABC News

The 2012 Solar Flare Theory

Monster sunspot threatens to unleash powerful solar flares | Fox News

Solarflare Announces Deployment of Application-Intelligent 10GbE Networking ...

Soluxe Solar Announces First "Solar Flare" Award Winner

Solar Flares From Active Sunspot Trigger Geomagnetic Storms On Earth, NASA ...