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Yesterday's double X-flare may have produced a geoeffective CME after all. At first it appeared that Earth was outside the line of fire, but a closer look at the CME reveals an Earth-directed component.
Pesnell believes that "Solar Cycle 24, such as it is, will probably start fading by 2015." Ironically, that is when some of the bigger flares and magnetic storms could occur. Biesecker has analyzed historical records of solar activity and he finds that most large events such as strong flares and significant geomagnetic storms typically occur in the declining phase of solar cycles—even weak ones
Indeed, this "Mini-Max" has already unleashed one of the strongest storms in recorded history. On July 23, 2012, a plasma cloud or "CME" rocketed away from the sun as fast as 3000 km/s, more than four times faster than a typical eruption. The storm tore through Earth orbit, but fortunately Earth wasn't there. Instead it hit NASA's STEREO-A spacecraft, which recorded the event for analysis. Researchers now believe the eruption was as significant as the iconic Carrington Event of 1859—a solar storm that set telegraph offices on fire and sparked Northern Lights as far south as Hawaii. If the 2012 "superstorm" had hit Earth, the damage to power grids and satellites would have been significant.