We’ve seen many photos on EarthSky’s Facebook page this week of giant sunspot region 1515, which has released a barrage of M-class flares over the past few days. Late in the day on July 6, this sunspot region released a strong X1.1-class solar flare. The X-flare came at 2308 UTC (6:08 p.m. CDT).
Spaceweather.com reports that the explosion hurled a CME, or coronal mass ejection, into space. These events can cause damage to satellites in Earth orbit, and they can affect telecommunications on Earth. CMEs are not harmful to humans on Earth’s surface.
The movie below is from the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory. It shows the cloud of charged solar particles released in the July 6, 2012 X-flare to be heading south and away from Earth. There is the possibility of a glancing blow to our planet on July 8 or 9. Again, these events cannot harm us on Earth’s surface. Our atmosphere protects us. There is a chance for a beautiful display of the northern lights. Aurora alert!
The image below was posted by our friend Jv Noriega, who photographed AR1515 at sunset in Manila just hours before the X-flare.
The image below is from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, which orbits in a circular, geosynchronous orbit – that is, staying at one spot over Earth’s surface – at an altitude of 36,000 kilometers (22,000 miles).
Bottom line: AR1515 released a strong X1.1-class solar flare at 2308 UTC on July 6, 2012. Its effects might deliver a glancing blow to Earth on July 8 or 9. Around those nights, look for beautiful displays of the aurora, or northern lights.
Deborah Byrd created the EarthSky radio series in 1991 and founded EarthSky.org in 1994. Today, she serves as Editor-in-Chief of this website. She has won a galaxy of awards from the broadcasting and science communities, including having an asteroid named 3505 Byrd in her honor. A science communicator and educator since 1976, Byrd believes in science as a force for good in the world and a vital tool for the 21st century. "Being an EarthSky editor is like hosting a big global party for cool nature-lovers," she says.