Multiple CME’s prompt geomagnetic storm watch

As we mentioned in a post yesterday, the sun has been very active of late. In fact, another solar flare today means that the sun has erupted with two M-Class solar flares and one X-Class solar flares in the last three days alone. The first two solar flares, from the same sunspot, are both earth-directed — and moving at a reasonably fast pace. The Space Weather Prediction Center issued a Moderate (G2) Geomagnetic storm watch for the first M-Class solar flare, and has since issued a G3 (Strong) geomagnetic storm watch for the X-Class solar flare, expected to reach Earth on Saturday.

As NASA puts it, solar falres are giant explosions on the sun that sent energy, light and high speed particles into space. These flares are often associated with magnetic storms known as CME’s, or Coronal Mass Ejections. Both of the two major solar flares from Tuesday and Wednesday were associated with CME’s. Although solar flares aren’t harmful to humans, solar flares and CME’s can create long lasting radiation storms above our heads — which can harm satellites, communication grids, and even power grids on the ground.

Where, exactly, the solar storms are directed when they leave the sun can have major impacts on what we experience here on Earth. With these past two solar flares, Earth is generally in the crosshairs of impact — especially given the expansive nature of the flares. But, newer solar storm models indicate that the Earth may be just a bit off from the central point of the flare so that the impacts somewhat “graze” us — while still impacting us strongly.

Animation of the X-Class solar flare which erupted from the sun on Wednesday.

Animation of the X-Class solar flare which erupted from the sun on Wednesday.

Still, the field of forecasting solar storms remains highly uncertain. Solar storm forecast models are constantly adjusting. The first wave of the solar storm, from the initial M-Class flare, is expected to arrive Thursday Night. Scientists are expecting impacts to some high-frequency radio transmissions as a result. Accordingly, aurora borealis may be seen in the northern latitudes and possibly mid latitudes, depending on the exact nuances of the solar storm as it arrives.

The X-Class solar flare from Wednesday isn’t expected to arrive until Saturday, and scientists are still working on perfecting the expect impacts.