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Sun Hurls Two CMEs at Earth, Possibly Supercharging the Northern Lights

First Posted: Sep 11, 2014 12:00 PM EDT
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On Sept. 10, our sun ramped up its activity. The sunspot AR2158 erupted, producing an X1.6-class solar flare. The resulting flash of ultraviolet radiation from the explosion ionized the upper layers of Earth's atmosphere and actually disturbed HF radio communications for more than an hour. Now, it turns out that this flare has resulted in a coronal mass ejection, which is headed directly toward Earth.

X-class flares are the most powerful type of solar flares. Like hurricanes, solar flares are classified based on their intensity. The weakest are known as A-class flares, followed by B, then C and M. X-class flares in particular need to be watched since they pose a risk to astronauts and satellites in orbit when they're aimed directly at Earth. In addition, these flares can produce coronal mass ejections, or CMEs.

A CME is an event which sends billions of tons of solar particles into space. When a CME is hurled toward Earth, like in this case, it can reach our planet's atmosphere days after the initial burst. Currently, officials expect for a pair of CMEs to arrive on Sept. 12th, according to spaceweather.com

What's most interesting is that strong geomagnetic storms are possible on Sept. 12th due to the coronal mass ejections. This means that it's possible that the storms could supercharge the aurora; and even skywatchers at mid-latitudes could see the Northern Lights in days ahead.

You can catch a video of the solar flare here. In addition, you can receive further space weather updates and track aurora activity here.

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