Today the sun unleashed a large C-class solar flare from what appears to be sun spot 1302, one that is almost pointed perfectly at the earth. This solar flare was then accompanied by a CME (coronal mass ejection*) that is headed to earth. Although the early part of the day showed increased slowing of activity on the surface of the sun, this afternoon solar flare has again reminded us of the power of the sun. Predictions for the time of impact for the CME will be coming in the next few hours but it really is not that much to worry about although CME’s are very amazing scientifically.
*Coronal mass ejection – Large flares are often associated with huge ejections of mass from the Sun, although the association is not clear. These coronal mass ejections (CMEs) are balloon-shaped bursts of solar wind rising above the solar corona, expanding as they climb. Solar plasma is heated to tens of millions of degrees, and electrons, protons, and heavy nuclei are accelerated to near the speed of light. The super-heated electrons from CMEs move along the magnetic field lines faster than the solar wind can flow. Rearrangement of the magnetic field, and solar flares may result in the formation of a shock that accelerates particles ahead of the CME loop. Each CME releases up to 100 billion kg (220 billion lb) of this material, and the speed of the ejection can reach 1000 km/second (2 million mph) in some flares. Solar flares and CMEs are currently the biggest “explosions” in our solar system, roughly approaching the power in ONE BILLION hydrogen bombs!
Fast CMEs occur more often near the peak of the 11-year solar cycle, and can trigger major disturbances in Earth’s magnetosphere, known as space weather.