Solar flare 2012 was the worst solar storm in a decade. This time the scientists were only 13 minutes off on the predicted time of the solar storm. Following 11 years of considerable calm, the sun has woken up again to send out flares after strong flares in all directions and now earth-bound sentinels can feel the stirrings in the atmosphere and their surroundings in the form of geomagnetic storms.
The prediction was utilized and timely warnings were sent out to satellite operators and power connection operators to shut off sensitive systems. Geomagnetic storms that are stirred by solar flares can adversely affect the power supply, and interfere with satellite communication. They can even fry satellites and leave them useless. Following the warning, some airlines of Canada and Europe changed the routes of polar flights as the north pole and surrounding area was mostly the target of charged particles called CME (coronal mass ejection) and X rays hurled out by the sun.
Yesterday sun spewed the most powerful solar flare of this season. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) rated the flare an X1.7-class eruption. The scientists rate flares according to classes defined by alphabets and while X-class flares are the most powerful type of solar storm, M-class storms falling within the mid-range and C-class flares are the weakest ones. Luckily earth was not in the target range of this massive flare.
Dean Pesnell, SDO Project Scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, stated, “It’s a great week for Space Weather!
Scientists are excited about this solar activity and their thrill can be felt. Facebook update of officials from NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center read, “Region 1402 is Alive!!!!!!!!!!!!! Another huge X-ray event is in progress.”
Radiation levels are climbing right now and is expected to peak in the later months of 2012 and 2013. What we are experiencing in the form of spectacular northern lights is just the beginning, claim the scientists.
Doug Biesecker, a physicist at NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center, said, “The radiation storm will almost certainly be weaker. The coronal mass ejection seems to be headed well away from Earth, which is good because this one seems like a bigger beast than the last one, but that’s still preliminary.”
The exact prediction of solar flares has become more important in our age as much of the world’s networks are interconnected and the population has become increasingly reliant on technology that use satellite communication. Solar flares hamper satellite communication due to the geomagnetic storm stirred up by the flares, so being pre-informed is of paramount importance.
Strong flares as this one can disrupt satellite communication. Even weaker flares interfare with earth’s magnetic field and cause brilliant auroras that are more popularly called the Norther and Southern Lights.
CME that is large enough can trigger a big geomagnetic storm in the earth’s atmosphere, affecting radio communication, air flight schedules, communication, and power outages.