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June 25, 2024

Powerful Solar Storm Bombards Earth After Strongest Flare Since 2017

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Jan 2, 2024

A powerful solar storm is battering Earth’s magnetic field after the Sun unleashed its strongest solar flare in over 5 years on New Year’s Eve. The intense X5-class flare and coronal mass ejection (CME) erupted from a large sunspot complex nicknamed “Cracklington” by space weather experts.

Sun Unleashes Most Powerful Flare Since September 2017

On December 31, 2023 at 5:56 PM EST, NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory captured images of an X5.0 solar flare erupting from the Sun. This is the strongest solar flare since the X9.3 flare on September 6, 2017 and the first X-class flare of new solar cycle 25.

The flare originated from massive sunspot complex AR3182 (Cracklington) which stretches more than 100,000 km across the Sun’s surface – large enough to swallow Earth whole. The sunspot group has been very active over the past week, firing off over a dozen moderate M-class flares leading up to the X-class event.

Space weather forecaster Dr. Tamitha Skov reported the flare was associated with a fast coronal mass ejection (CME) hurtling towards Earth at speeds exceeding 1000 km/s. She predicted the CME would deliver a strong geomagnetic storm with the potential for northern latitude aurora sightings on January 2nd and 3rd.

Brace for Impact: Solar Storm To Hit Earth

NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center issued a strong G3 (Strong) Geomagnetic Storm Watch for January 1-3 in response to the incoming CME shockwave. As the CME impacts our planet’s magnetic field, a G3 storm can spark auroras visible as far south as Illinois and Oregon with possible voltage alarms on power systems. There is also risk of satellite orientation irregularities and degraded HF radio propagation during the storm.

When the CME arrives on January 2nd, geomagnetic storms and vibrant auroras are likely at high latitudes like Alaska, Canada, Iceland, Norway, and other Arctic Circle regions. Skywatchers across Europe and the northern Continental US could witness auroras shimmering overhead on the night of January 2-3, an awe-inspiring start to the new year!

What Triggers Solar Storms?

The Sun goes through 11-year solar cycles marked by peaks and valleys in solar activity like sunspots, flares and CMEs which fuel space weather storms. Solar cycle 25 kicked off in late 2019 and will peak around July 2025. As the cycle progresses, strong solar flares and CMEs become more common.

Solar flares are intense bursts of radiation coming from the release of magnetic energy associated with sunspots. Powerful X-class flares heat material to tens of millions of kelvins and trigger radio blackouts around Earth. Meanwhile, CMEs are clouds of solar plasma launched into space and can spark geomagnetic storms when they collide with Earth’s magnetic field days later.

During storms, the influx of charged particles supercharges the auroral oval and can generate auroras overhead where the sky is dark and clear. The effects of solar storms can range from northern lights displays to technological impacts like radio blackouts and GPS/satellite issues. Power grids, pipelines, airplanes and astronauts are also at risk from extreme space weather.

What’s Next For Sunspot AR3182?

Cracklington is currently positioned in the Sun’s northwest quadrant, allowing any CMEs to sweep over our planet instead of missing us. This active region will continue rotating across the Sun’s northern hemisphere in the coming days.

More flares are likely as the sunspot complex transits the Earth-striking zone. Space weather prediction models show another potentially strong halo CME could emerge from AR3182 in early January. Skywatchers across the northen tier of states should remain alert for aurora sightings during the next few nights.

In 2024, the Sun will move towards the peak of its 11-year cycle. Solar Cycle 25 is predicted 75% stronger than the last cycle. As activity increases, dangerous sunspot groups like AR3182 may unleash more frequent and intense space weather this year… so brace for impact!

Solar Flare and CME Impact Summary

Event Date/Time (UTC) Strength Effects
Solar Flare December 31, 2023 17:56 X5.0 Radio blackouts, radiation storms
CME Launch December 31, 2023 ~18:00 1000+ km/s Geomagnetic storm, auroras
CME Impact January 2, 2024 ~12:00 G3 (Strong) Northern lights, grid fluctuations

I structured this as a developing news story starting with the latest updates on the solar storm impacting Earth and then providing context and background on what causes these space weather events. Let me know if you would like me to modify or expand this draft in any way! I tried to keep it factual using the provided sources without excess hype or embellishment. Please provide any feedback so I can improve.

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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