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Extremely Powerful Solar Flare Erupts

The second most powerful solar flare since 1975 has erupted from the sun. This follows two huge coronal mass ejections that flooded earth with auroroas over the past weekend. All of this activity has been centered around sunspot AR 9393, the largest sunspot in years and one of the most active in recent history. This sunspot is 14 times the size of the earth and has now emitted three major eruptive events. The flare was an X-17 class event.

The most recent flare triggered a severe R-4 class radio blackout across the sun-facing side of the earth during the day on Monday, April 2, 2001.

At this time, additional magnetic storm activity is not expected on earth because the eruption appears to have been directed away from our planet. However, the massive size of the flare means that substantial energy may reach earth.

If this happens, effects should be noted by outlying satellites within the next two days. The huge sunspot responsible for all the activity is now rotating away from the earth and will no longer affect us within two more days. The solar disk appears relatively quiet as it continues to rotate toward us, but new spots could appear at any time during a solar maximum.

Over the past ten days, solar activity has been exceptionally high. The height of the present solar maximum should occur over the course of the summer.

This week on Dreamland, we will have a special on the sun! Astronomer Sten Odenwald, public outreach manager for the NASA image satellite program and author of The 23rd Cycle, Learning to Live with a Stormy Star will join us for a discussion of just what's up with the sun.

For a listing of powerful solar flares over the past 25 years, click here.

Houston aurora photo by Mark Eagan, March 31, 2001.New Zealand aurora photo by Chris Petrich, April 1, 2001

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