Effects of May 17 solar flare expected May 19

Monster sunspot 1476 sent a parting blast our way, as the sun’s rotation was carrying it from view. The beautiful movie below shows a coronal mass ejection, or CME, hurtling into space from the sun on May 17, 2012. Its effects might deliver a glancing blow to Earth tomorrow (May 19).

May 17, 2012 coronal mass ejection (CME)

NOAA forecasters at first said Earth was not in the path of the CME’s effects, but later said a shock wave from the blast could sweep closer to Earth’s magnetic field on May 19. The NOAA Today’s Space Weather page says:

Geophysical Activity Forecast: The geomagnetic field is expected to be at quiet to unsettled levels with isolated active periods on day 1 (19 May) due to a possible shock arrival from the 17 May CME. Quiet to unsettled conditions are expected on day 2 (20 May). Mostly quiet conditions are expected on day 3 (21 May).

No major effects are expected, but the incoming CME could affect telecommunications and satellites in orbit. Plus it could create auroras, or northern lights! Be on the lookout if you live at a high latitude.

This same sunspot region sent another CME toward Earth and gave us a glancing blow around May 14, 2012.

Sunspot 1476 from EarthSky Facebook friend Zlatan Merakov in Smolyan, Bulgaria. The inset shows the size of the sunspot region compared to Earth.

Read more about sunspot 1476 and see more photos

Plus photographers around the world got some amazing images of the sunspot region, which was many times larger than Earth. You can read more about the sunspot region’s activity in recent days – and see some great photos – at this post.

It was an M5-class solar flare that created the May 17 CME, by the way.

Bottom line: Sunspot 1476 is about to disappear around the limb of the sun as the sun’s rotation carries it from view. But an M5-class flare on May 17, 2012 sent out one last CME, which might deliver a glancing blow to Earth on May 19.

May 18, 2012

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Deborah Byrd

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