Friday, September 9, 2011

Sun, Solar Flares Booming to Life Like Old Faithful, Solar Pictures wrote in an update today, "Glancing blows from the three clouds will commence sometime on Sept. 9th and continue through Sept. 11th, possibly," sparking minor geomagnetic storms!

The speculation about 2012 has been rampant for at least two years now but I think everyone should be paying particular attention to the activity of the sun over the next 15 months. It has the potential to knock our grids offline and do damage to our infrastructure like we have not seen in our lifetime. By all indications the sun is gearing up for some events that will be more than spectacular. It seems that all indications point towards a stronger eleven year cycle than we have experienced in modern times. It could take somewhere between four and ten years to repair the damage that the sun might do! 

The sun has continued its string of outbursts this week, unleashing two new, powerful solar flares in two days from a region on its surface that space weather experts have now dubbed "Old Faithful." An X-class solar flare — the most powerful type of sun storm — erupted Wednesday at 6:37 p.m. EDT. Another flare blazed up today at 11:44 a.m. EDT. The latter flare appears to be somewhat less intense, but scientists are still taking its measure. These solar storms follow closely on the heels of two other big flares this week, one Monday and one Tuesday. All four storms erupted from the same area, known as sunspot 1283. Sunspots are temporary dark patches on the solar surface caused by intense magnetic activity. Because of its recent string of powerful flares, space weather experts at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration dubbed sunspot 1283 "Old Faithful," comparing it to the well-known geyser in the United States' Yellowstone National Park that goes off like clockwork. 

 Four straight days of strong solar storms Strong solar flares are classified according to a three-tiered system: X-class flares are the most powerful, M-class are of medium strength and C-class are the weakest. For the record, sunspot 1283 has now generated an M5.3 flare (Monday), an X2.1 (Tuesday), an X1.8 (Wednesday) and an apparent M6.7 (Friday). Big solar flares are often associated with coronal mass ejections (CMEs), massiveclouds of solar plasma that can streak through space at up to 3 million mph. If these clouds hit Earth, they can wreak havoc, spawning geomagnetic storms that can disrupt GPS signals, radio communications and power grids. 

 The eruptions on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday all produced CMEs, scientists said, though it is too early to tell with Friday's storm. But the three known CMEs shouldn't cause major problems on Earth, they added. "Not one of the CMEs, however, will hit our planet squarely," the space storm monitoring website wrote in an update today. "Glancing blows from the three clouds will commence sometime on Sept. 9th and continue through Sept. 11th, possibly." sparking minor geomagnetic storms

These CMEs could prove a boon for skywatchers, possibly producing extra-dramatic light displays (called auroras) in certain locations when they do collide with Earth. Just last month, for example, the sun let loose with an X6.9 solar flare, which was the most powerful solar storm since December 2006, NASA scientists said. The sun also generated an X-class flare in February and another in March. Sun ramping up The powerful storms of the last four days are part of a larger pattern. Solar activity has been ramping up over the last few months as the sun has roused itself from an extended quiescent phase in its 11-year activity cycle. And the storms should keep coming over the next few years. Scientists expect activity in the current cycle — known as Solar Cycle 24 — to peak around 2013.
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