Solar flare unleashes geomagnetic storm. Did you feel it?


A solar flare struck the Earth on 29 March, unleashing a geomagnetic storm that affected radio and communications systems. Particles erupting from the Sun were powerful enough to be classified as an X-class flare, the most powerful category of such events. 

X-1 flares are the least powerful class of the X-class eruptions, but the energy is still enough to interfere with electronic and communications systems. The flare which grazed our home world was nearly powerful enough to be classified as an X-2 event. 

"X-class denotes the most intense flares, while the number provides more information about its strength. An X2 is twice as intense as an X1, an X3 is three times as intense, etc.," NASA officials wrote in the announcement of the storm. 

A smaller geomagnetic storm may be felt on Earth on Wednesday, 2 April. Materials from three solar flares are headed for glancing blows with the Earth, with the first due to arrive at our home world late in the day on 2 April. This event is caused by effects from the earlier flare combining with new coronal mass ejections (CME's) from the surface of the Sun. None of this material is expected to collide directly with our planet. 

"There are several coronal mass ejections (CMEs) in play at this time, including the one from this event, and G1 (Minor) geomagnetic storming is expected on April 2nd as a result," said National Weather Service on their webpage on the coming storm. 

Astronomers do not expect this coming storm to cause any damage. The only effect on the Earth, astronomers says, may be an increase in the brightness of northern and southern lights. These displays are caused by charged particles from space being redirected into the atmosphere by the magnetic field of the Earth. 

Satellites are often affected by these solar storms. On Earth, these effects are most noticeable in temporary disruptions to GPS service. These ejections from the Sun are not able to reach the surface of the Earth. 

Sunspot AR2017 was the breeding grounds for the powerful burst, which erupted at 1:48 EDT on 29 April. The arrival at Earth was noted by amateur radio operators, who noted a drop in signal at 20 MHz, which was filled with static for several minutes. Ultraviolet light from the flare caused this temporary blackout. 

The effect of the flares was also felt on the surface of Sun itself. The eruption caused shock waves that raced across the photosphere at 11 million miles per hour. 

Enjoy the coming storm!

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