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Weather forecasting and analysis, space and historic events, climate information

3:10 PM | Sunspot AR1520 breaks its silence and unleashes an X-class solar flare

Paul Dorian


UPDATE: Sunspot AR1520 has broken its silence and has unleashed an X-flare at 1653 UT (12:53 PM EDT) which is classified as a strong event - the highest level of classification given by solar scientists. Because the sunspot was directly facing the Earth at the time of the blast, it very well could have an impact on the Earth’s atmosphere in the very near term. These kinds of events can cause an abundance of "northern lights" in the northern latitudes over the next few nights including much of the US, and they can seriously disrupt radio and satellite communications. It is still a little too early to tell exactly how serious the effects may be so stay tuned.

11:50 AM Sunspot AR1520 has now rotated into a position that is directly facing the Earth, but so far it has been relatively quiet and has only produced moderate-strength solar flares. From this current position on the sun, AR1520 could unleash flares and coronal mass ejections (CMEs) that could have a high latitude impact including auroras and potentially some satellite and radio transmission disruptions depending on how large the flare is. NOAA forecasters estimate that this sunspot has about a 15% chance of producing the strongest-type of flare during the next 24 hours which is classified as an X-flare. This gigantic sunspot, one of the biggest in years, is so wide it stretches roughly 139,000 kilometers across the sun which is about 11 Earth diameters. This particular sunspot is even larger than its predecessor, AR1515, which was visible on the sun last week before it rotated around to the back side of the sun. Stay tuned.