Sun packs double punch: Solar flare effects to reach Earth tonight

Aurora alert! The combined effects of two solar flares will reach Earth around 23 UTC on August 4. That is 7 p.m. EDT tonight. No major problems expected.

On August 3, 2011, the sun packed a double punch, emitting two fairly strong solar flares within hours of each other. Both flares had significant coronal mass ejections (CMEs) associated with them that will give the Earth a glancing blow. Based on current solar and heliospheric modeling carried out by the Space Weather Lab at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, the flares are likely to merge. Their combined effects are expected to reach Earth’s near-space environment around 11 UTC tonight (August 4). That is 7 p.m. EDT tonight.

As their effects reach Earth, these recent solar flares are likely to create auroras visible at high latitudes. They are unlikely to cause major problems to electrical systems on Earth, according to NASA.

Here are the details on the flares themselves. The sun emitted an M6.0-class flare at 13:43 UTC on August 3 (9:43 a.m. EDT) and a slightly stronger M9.3-class flare on August 4 at 3:41 UTC (11:41 p.m. EDT on August 3).

This animated model shows the expected path of the August 4, 2011 CME cloud. Credit: NASA/CCMC

CMEs are solar phenomena that can send solar particles hurling into space at high rates of speed, sometimes affecting electronic systems in satellites and on the ground.

A CME of this strength is likely to cause auroras at high latitudes and may affect some satellite operations but is unlikely to cause any major impacts to electrical systems on Earth.

Via NASA News