Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Sun blasts out an X-treme flare

The active region 1429 unleashed this powerful X5.4-class solar flare at 7:28 p.m. ET March 6. X-class flares are the strongest class of flares. (Credit: NASA SDO)

By Alan Boyle

The sun unleashed one of the biggest flares ever seen during its current activity cycle late Tuesday — an X5.4-class outburst strong enough to trigger a radio blackout. This extreme-ultraviolet image of the sun's disk, captured by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, shows the flare shining like a bright flame. reports that the eruption, recorded at 7:28 p.m. ET, hurled a coronal mass ejection into space. Is the storm of electrically charged particles heading toward us? "Our best guess is 'probably yes, but not directly toward Earth,'"'s Tony Phillips writes. A glancing blow could spark heightened auroras on March 8 or 9.
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