Solar Flare Erupts From Giant Sunspot, Marks The Summer’s Strongest Flare Yet
The most powerful solar flare of the summer so far erupted from the sun Friday (July 6), the latest in a string of powerful storms this week from our nearest star, space weather experts say.
The sun storm occurred just after 7 p.m. EDT (2300 GMT) and registered as a class X1.1 solar flare — one of the strongest types of solar flares possible, according to the U.S. Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) run by NOAA and the National Weather Service.
The huge solar flare erupted from the giant sunspot AR1515, which has already fired off several other powerful storms this week. Space weather scientists were closely watching the sunspot for possible X-class flares.
“And AR1515 did it! X1-class solar flare,” officials with NASA’s sun-watching Solar Dynamics Observatory wrote in a post to @Camilla_SDO, the mission’s mascot Twitter account.
The Solar Dynamics Observatory captured a video of the X1.1 solar flare as it erupted from the sun. The spacecraft is one of several space-based telescopes constantly monitoring the sun for signs of solar flares and other space weather activity.
By all accounts, the sunspot group AR1515 is enormous. It stretches across 118,681 miles (191,000 kilometers) of the sun’s surface, making it longer than 15 Earths set end to end, NASA solar astrophysicist C. Alex Young told SPACE.com today before the new flare. [More Solar Flare Photos from Sunspot AR1515]
While today’s solar flare marked the strongest of the summer season, which began in late June, it is not the strongest of 2012. In March, the sun fired off an intense X5.4-class solar flare. Today’s sun storm marked the fifth X-class solar flare of the year.
By: Tariq Malik
Published: 07/06/2012 09:22 PM EDT on SPACE.com