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New solar flare, secondary peak today in this "Extreme" solar storm

The Sun released another powerful burst of energy today, known as a solar flare, reaching its peak intensity on May 12, 2024 at 12:26 p.m. Eastern Time. The flare originated from a region on the Sun’s surface called sunspot Region 3664, which has been quite active lately.

NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, a spacecraft that keeps a constant eye on our nearest star, was able to capture a striking image of this latest solar outburst.

Solar flares are immense explosions on the Sun that send energy, light and high speed particles into space. They occur when the magnetic fields in and around the Sun reconnect, releasing huge amounts of stored magnetic energy. Flares are our solar system’s most powerful explosive events.

The NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) has extended the Geomagnetic Storm Warning until the afternoon of May 13, 2024.

Understanding different classes of solar flares

Today’s flare was classified as an X1.0 flare. Solar flares are categorized into classes based on their strength, with X-class flares being the most intense. The number provides additional information about the flare’s strength within that class. An X1 flare is ten times more powerful than an M1 flare.

These energetic solar eruptions can significantly impact Earth’s upper atmosphere and near-Earth space environment. Strong flares can disrupt high-frequency radio communications and GPS navigation signals. The particle radiation and X-rays from flares can also pose potential risks to astronauts in space.

Additionally, the magnetic disturbances from flares, if particularly strong, have the ability to affect electric power grids on Earth, sometimes causing long-lasting blackouts.

However, power grid problems are more commonly caused by coronal mass ejections (CMEs), another type of powerful solar eruption often associated with strong flares.

Scientists are always on alert, monitoring the Sun for these explosive events so that any potential impacts can be anticipated and prepared for. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, along with several other spacecraft, help provide this early warning system.

Stay tuned to and the Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) for updates.


Update — May 12, 2024 at 9:41 AM EDT

The ongoing geomagnetic storm is expected to intensify later today, Sunday, May 12, 2024. Several intense Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs), traveling from the Sun at speeds up to 1,200 miles per second, are anticipated to reach the Earth’s outer atmosphere by late afternoon.

Over the past two days, preliminary reports have surfaced regarding power grid irregularities, degradation of high-frequency communications, GPS outages, and satellite navigation issues. These disruptions are likely to persist as the geomagnetic storm strengthens.

Auroras visible across the continental United States

Weather permitting, auroras will be visible again tonight over most of the continental United States. This spectacular display of lights is a direct result of the ongoing geomagnetic storm.

The threat of additional strong solar flares and CMEs, which ultimately result in spectacular aurora displays, will persist until the large and magnetically complex sunspot cluster, NOAA Region 3664, rotates out of view of the Earth. This is expected to occur by Tuesday, May 14, 2024.

Solar activity remains at moderate to high levels

Solar activity has been at moderate levels over the past 24 hours. Region 3664 produced an M8.8/2b flare, the strongest of the period, on May 11 at 15:25 UTC. A CME signature was observed, but an Earth-directed component is not suspected.

Solar activity is expected to remain at high levels from May 12-14, with M-class and X-class flares anticipated, primarily due to the flare potential of Region 3664.

Energetic particle flux and solar wind enhancements

The greater than 10 MeV proton flux reached minor to moderate storm levels on May 10. Additional proton enhancements are likely on May 13-14 due to the flare potential and location of Region 3664.

The solar wind environment has been strongly enhanced due to continued CME activity. Solar wind speeds reached a peak of around 620 miles/second on May 12 at 00:55 UTC.

A strongly enhanced solar wind environment and continued CME influences are expected to persist on May 12-13, and begin to wane by May 14.

Geomagnetic field reaches G4 “Severe” storm levels

The geomagnetic field reached G4 (Severe) geomagnetic storm levels in the past 24 hours due to continued CME activity.

Periods of G3 (Strong) geomagnetic storms are likely, with isolated G4 levels possible, on May 12. Periods of G1-G3 (Minor-Strong) storming are likely on May 13, and periods of G1 (Minor) storms are likely on May 14.

Stay informed and enjoy the light show

As the geomagnetic storm rages on, we must remain vigilant and prepared for the potential consequences. Monitor official sources for updates on the storm’s progress and any further disruptions to our technological infrastructure.

Take a moment to step outside tonight and marvel at the incredible auroras painting the night sky — a stunning reminder of the raw power and beauty of our Sun.

While these solar storms can cause temporary inconveniences, they also provide us with an opportunity to reflect on our place in the universe and the awe-inspiring forces that shape our world.

Stay tuned to and the Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) for updates.

Understanding geomagnetic solar storms

Geomagnetic storms are disturbances in the Earth’s magnetic field caused by the interaction between the solar wind and the planet’s magnetosphere. These storms can have significant impacts on technology, infrastructure, and even human health.

Causes of geomagnetic storms

Geomagnetic storms typically originate from the Sun. They are caused by two main phenomena:

  • Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs): Massive bursts of plasma and magnetic fields ejected from the Sun’s surface.
  • Solar Flares: Intense eruptions of electromagnetic radiation from the Sun’s surface.

When these events occur, they send charged particles streaming towards Earth at high speeds, which can take anywhere from one to five days to reach our planet.

Effects on Earth’s magnetic field

As the charged particles from CMEs and solar flares reach Earth, they interact with the planet’s magnetic field. This interaction causes the magnetic field lines to become distorted and compressed, leading to fluctuations in the strength and direction of the magnetic field.

Impacts on technology and infrastructure

Geomagnetic storms can have significant impacts on various aspects of modern technology and infrastructure:

  • Power Grids: Strong geomagnetic storms can induce currents in power lines, causing transformers to overheat and potentially leading to widespread power outages.
  • Satellite Communications: Charged particles can damage satellite electronics and disrupt communication signals.
  • GPS and Navigation Systems: Geomagnetic disturbances can interfere with the accuracy of GPS and other navigation systems.
  • Radio Communications: Storms can disrupt radio signals, affecting communication systems that rely on HF, VHF, and UHF bands.

Aurora formation

One of the most visually striking effects of geomagnetic storms is the formation of auroras, also known as the Northern and Southern Lights.

As charged particles collide with Earth’s upper atmosphere, they excite oxygen and nitrogen atoms, causing them to emit light in various colors.

Monitoring and forecasting

Scientists continuously monitor the Sun’s activity and use various instruments to detect and measure CMEs and solar flares.

This data helps them forecast the timing and intensity of geomagnetic storms, allowing for better preparedness and mitigation of potential impacts.

Historical geomagnetic storms

Some of the most notable geomagnetic storms in history include:

  • The Carrington Event (1859): The most powerful geomagnetic storm on record, which caused widespread telegraph system failures and auroras visible as far south as the Caribbean.
  • The Halloween Storms (2003): A series of powerful geomagnetic storms that caused power outages in Sweden and damaged transformers in South Africa.
  • The Quebec Blackout (1989): A geomagnetic storm that caused a massive power outage affecting millions of people in Quebec, Canada.

Understanding geomagnetic storms is crucial for protecting our technology-dependent world and mitigating the potential risks associated with these powerful space weather events.


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