November 13, 2012
M6 Solar Flare Heading Towards Earth
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
NASA said that the sun emitted a mid-level solar flare on Tuesday that has the potential of causing some radio blackouts.
The solar flare reached a classification of M6, which falls into the weakest flares that are still able to cause some space weather effects near Earth.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association's Space Weather Scales, this M-class flare can cause a radio blackout categorized as R2, or moderate.
The sun is entering a new cycle, heading towards solar maximum, which is expected to peak in 2013. This cycle will see increased solar activity.
Humans have been tracking this solar cycle continuously since it was first discovered in 1843, and it is normal for there to be many flares a day during this activity.
Tuesday's flare was not associated with a coronal mass ejection (CME), which is another solar phenomenon that can send solar particles into space and reach Earth one to three days later.
The M6 flare was captured by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO). By observing the sun in a number of different wavelengths, NASA telescopes are able to help tease out different aspects of events on the sun.
Harmful radiation from solar flares cannot pass through Earth's atmosphere to physically affect humans on the ground, but they can disturb the atmosphere in the layer where Global Position System (GPS) and communication signals travel.
The radio signals from these satellites lay in an area that could be disrupted anywhere from just a few minutes, to a few hours.
NASA will be providing updates as needed with this solar flare heading Earth's way, and redOrbit will be keeping you informed of any danger it may pose to Earth's satellites.