A Medium Solar Flare

The Sun unleashed an M-2 (medium-sized) solar flare, an S1-class (minor) radiation storm and a spectacular coronal mass ejection on June 7, 2011. The large cloud of particles mushroomed up and fell back down looking as if it covered an area of almost half the solar surface. A solar flare is a sudden brightening observed over the Sun surface or the solar limb, which is interpreted as a large energy release of up a sixth of the total energy output of the Sun each second. Solar flares strongly influence the local space weather in the vicinity of the Earth. They can produce streams of highly energetic particles in the solar wind, known as a solar proton event, or coronal mass ejection. These particles can impact the Earth’s magnetosphere and cause a geomagnetic storm. A geomagnetic storm is a temporary disturbance of the Earth’s magnetosphere caused by a disturbance in the interplanetary medium. A geomagnetic storm is a major component of space weather and provides the input for many other components of space weather, and present radiation hazards to spacecraft, astronauts and cosmonauts. The current flare event is moving at 1400 km/s according to NASA models. The flare event should deliver a glancing blow to Earth’s magnetic field during the late hours of June 8th or June 9th. High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras when the it arrives.

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