On February 15, solar region 1158 produced the strongest solar flare of solar cycle 24 to date, rated X2.2. The flare began at 1:44am (UTC), peaked at
1:56, and ended at 2:06. For 22 minutes radio waves, infrared, visible light, ultraviolet, and x-ray radiation poured out of a cluster of sunspots
covering an area on the surface of the Sun more than 2.5 times the surface area of the Earth.
This burst of electromagnetic energy was produced by complex interactions between conflicting magnetic fields reaching across the region and between
the individual sunspots within it. The energy of a solar flare is not directional. A flare occurring anywhere on the hemisphere of the Sun facing
Earth is "Earth directed".
The energy raced at the speed of light across the solar system in an ever widening hemispherical shell. It arrived at Earth a bit more than 8 minutes
after leaving the Sun. Flashing unaffected through the shell of the magnetosphere, the powerful radio waves were still intense enough to produce a
burst of VHF radio noise on the daylit side of the planet (Asia and Australia) temporarily interfering with communications. The ultraviolet and x-ray
radiation struck the upper atmosphere, ripping electrons from their atoms. This ionization can, if strong enough, cause problems for satellite
communications but it also can strengthen the reflectivity of the ionosphere, allowing ham radio operators in the high frequency bands to communicate
over long distances for a while afterward.
At about the same time the flare occurred and eruption of material from Sun's corona was hurled into space by the same release of magnetic forces
which produced the flare. Unlike the flare, this fast moving cloud of hot ions (plasma) was sent in a particular direction away from the Sun. This CME
(coronal mass ejection) was directed toward Earth. We know this because of the expanding halo of material which can be seen in the coronograph images
from the SOHO satellite which lies on a direct line between the Sun and the Earth. Because the expanding material forms a complete circle, spreading
evenly, the cloud must be moving directly toward us.
Here's a combination of the two.
This wispy cloud of protons and electrons was moving much slower than the energy from the flare which accompanied its creation, taking very close to
three days to reach Earth. By the time the products of the CME reached us they were hardly detectable, notable by mostly by an abrupt increase in the
speed of the solar wind and a rise in its temperature.
So ephemeral was the CME that it has had little effect, causing only slight fluctuations in the Earth's magnetic field, easing worries of those
fearing power failures.
The solar wind maintained a mostly strong north alignment, producing that "balled up" look in the magnetosphere simulator which some get concerned
about. That doesn't mean the magnetosphere is in trouble, it means the magnetosphere is turning its back on the solar wind rather than welcoming it
with open arms. This alignment prevents solar particles from entering the Earth's upper atmosphere, disappointing those hoping for an auroral
To get a better idea of what may be a real cause for concern, here is what a non-wispy CME looks like when it's headed our way. July 14, 2000, the
"Bastille Day Event".
Notice how much denser this CME was than the one from this week. The speckles which appear at the end of the animation are the result of high energy
protons striking the sensor, a "proton storm". The flare associated with this CME was an X5 (much stronger than the recent X2.2). Aurora were visible
as far south as El Paso, Texas. It was a direct hit. We survived.
Region 1158 is now rotating away from our direction so that any future CMEs from it will not impact Earth (on this rotation). But Region 1161 has been
growing a bit and is exhibiting some characteristics which may lead to vigorous activity.
The STEREO B satellite reveals a fairly calm face around the corner. So, barring a burst from 1161, it looks like there may be a lull in activity for
at least 10 to 14 days but it is certain that we will have more opportunities to sit on the edges of our seats.
edit on 2/18/2011 by Phage because: (no reason given)
Nice thread. Good to see solid science and a reasoned reaction (but what else would we expect from you Phage ). We need more of this to counter
balance the constant doom and gloom. It seems like every little bit of solar activity causes people here on ATS to cry wolf, same for Earthquakes and
all other natural disasters. Hopefully this thread will help people understand the way our star works and when concern is actually called for.
Very informative and well put together. I always appreciate images that back up or support what a member is saying. I have become curious about the
sun since joining ATS and it's posts like yours that keep me clued in and rivetted. So thank you.
Nice to see you posting again, I lurk more than I post but I do appreciate your voice of reason and the detailed explanations you go out of your way
On a personal note I was hoping to see some northern lights in the UK, the BBC is even stating that they could well be spotted above the UK this
evening but I gather fro your post this is really unlikely.
Thanks for the update and welcome back to ATS mate, you have been missed Regarding the flare I think this is a taster of what the solar maximum
has in-store I believe we will see massive flares and the power grid getting knocked out over the next few years.
Though this solar cycle is shaping up to be less active than average numerically (fewer sunspots), solar scientists have no way of even guessing at
the intensity of upcoming activity. We do know that very powerful incidents are rare but that just means it takes more rolls of the dice to come up
edit on 2/18/2011 by Phage because: (no reason given)
Well excuse me if I don't bow down in homage. Good post it may have been but it was all over ATS and the net before the event - including the pics
(which most of us have surely seen by now) - and now it looks like this one is going to run on and on in post event analysis. Sigh....
For those of us who took the trouble to research what was happening, including the possibilities, this is just 'same old, same old'. For those who
didn't bother, why bother posting anyway.
I don't mean to be a killjoy but news reports last night said that the activity from this flare alone will continue for at least 2 days, looks like
the grid held out though, I guess the magnetic hole wasn't pointing the right way this time. that and the flare was relatively nothing, considering
it was marked as an X-class flare.
Hey man, I`m tired, maybe I should stand in the snow.
I had been following some of the other threads about recent earthquake activity and saw you post quite often and wasn`t sure how to take your post
So much craziness and deception in the world today that I thought you may have been serious.
I also didn`t see Phage respond to you so thought maybe he was ignoring you as if you two were`nt friends or something..
Anyway, no offense to Phage, just wasn`t sure where badwolf was going with that post.
Sorry for the mix-up.
Star and Flag for this thread Phage, I agree you always are very informative although I don`t always respond I usually give you stars and flags.
Thanks again for the info..
edit on 2/18/2011 by csulli456 because: (no reason given)
Well done ,and long time no sees,brilliant additionals,and formative.I did start a thread on the subject at the time as it happened for member input
as a social interaction for additional info.Good to see addition.
I look forward to more rebounds
edit on 18-2-2011 by gringoboy because: (no reason given)
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