Plasma cloud from the first X-class solar flare of Solar Cycle 24 (X2.3 on February 15, 2011) is headed our way. It is expected to arrive around February 17.
2011/02/15, at 07:07 UTC - PRESTO-alert: NOAA AR 1158 has produced an X2.3 flare peaking at 01:56 UTC, associated with an Earth-directed CME. Furthermore, an M2.2 flare (from the same AR) peaking at 17:26 UT on February 14 had also an associated Earth-directed CME. They are expected to arrive at Earth around February 17.
Some facts about this event
- The flare started at 01:48 UTC, peaked at 01:56 and ended at 02:58. These times are measured by GOES in the X-ray radiation.
- LYRA onboard PROBA2 captured the flash in its time series. A clear sudden increase is seen in 2 bandpasses.
- SWAP onboard PROBA2 captured the flash in this image.
Image credit: NASA / STEREO / Behind
Image credit: NASA / STEREO / Ahead
Image credit: ESA / PROBA 2 / SWAP
Some facts about CMEs - plasma clouds
- A CME is a Coronal Mass Ejection. It is solar plasma that is ejected. The Sun looses energy in the form of moving mass, i.e. kinetic energy.
- A plasma cloud comes on top of the background solar wind. Compare it with a shock wave/tsunami running over a river or sea. It has speeds between 400 km/s up to 2000 km/s.
- The solar wind is a continuous stream of plasma leaving the Sun. This wind blows in all directions. Part of the wind blows over the Earth magnetic shield. The slow solar wind blows at speeds of 200-400 km/s. A fast solar wind blows at speeds up to 700-800 km/s. If the solar wind has a speed of 500 km/s, it takes the plasma blowing in the direction of Earth around 3 days and 11 hours to arrive at Earth.
- The solar wind is magnetized, plasma clouds also. When blowing over the Earth, this magnetized plasma can couple with the magnetic field of the Earth. In this way, energy is transported into the Earth outer system. This physical process causes magnetic storms. Magnetic storms disturb radio communication, disturb the signal to satellites and by this disturb navigation systems like GPS. Magnetic storms induce magnetic currents in electrical power plants and lines, in pipes. A nice visual side effect is aurora.