Monster Sunspot – Solar Flare: Oops, There Goes The 21st Century
>UPDATE (10/24, 21:30 GMT) A Strong X3+ Solar Flare Is Currently In Progress and it will be geoeffective because the sunspot is directly facing Earth.
>UPDATE (10/25, 11:30 GMT) A pulse of extreme UV radiation from the flare ionized the upper layers of Earth’s atmosphere, causing a brief but strong blackout of HF radio communications over the sun-facing side of Earth. Data suggests that the explosion did not hurl a significant CME toward our planet (dodged another bullet).
LOTS OF SOLAR FLARES: Solar activity is high.
GIANT sunspot AR2192 has produced dozens of C-class solar flares, many M-class flares, and several X-flares.
The most powerful solar flare eruption from this sunspot occurred on 10/24, an X-3 class. Previously an X-1.6 blast on Oct 22nd knocked out some radio communication on Earth.
It may be the biggest sunspot group in 25 years.
The sunspot is so big, that it can easily be viewed from earth during sunset and people are beginning to notice it when the sun is dimmed by clouds or haze.
“It would seem to be just a matter of time before another strong explosion occurs,” said spaceweather.com’s Tony Phillips
Remarkably, not one of the explosions so far has hurled a significant CME toward Earth. The primary effect of the flares has been to ionize Earth’s upper atmosphere, causing a series of radio communications blackouts.
Earth-effects could increase in the days ahead. (Sunspot) AR2192 has an unstable magnetic field that harbors energy for powerful explosions, and the active region is turning toward Earth.
(UPDATE 10/24) The sunspot is directly facing at this time and rotating beyond – as it has just unleashed a powerful X3+ solar flare (CME strength to be determined)
NOAA forecasters estimate a 95% chance of M-class flares and a 55% chance of X-flares during the next 24 hours.
The thing is –
If there’s an X30+ solar flare, we might be saying, “Oops, there goes the 21st century”.
Will an X30 solar flare ever be predicted? Answer: No. We will never know when it’s going to happen. What we do know however is that it will happen. And the potential is always there whenever an active (and large) sunspot group is rotating around the sun. If it happens to fire off while facing the earth, then we could be in for a major setback – to say the least.
What do I mean by “Oops, there goes the 21st century”?
For those of you who have studied the Carrington Event solar flare of 1859 will know what I mean (look it up if you haven’t already). Basically, a large enough solar flare and CME (potentially lasting for days) could induce electrical currents in power grid power lines of sufficient magnitude over a sufficient length of time to not only trip all the breakers – but to melt down the windings of power transformers – some of which are particularly crucial to keeping the power up for most of us (EHV Extra High Voltage transformers).
The thing is – EHV transformers are not built in the United States and they could take up to a year to build (in a place where the power is up). If the power is down, there will be that much more difficulty building them. In the mean time, it will only take several weeks for the nation (or large chunks thereof) to descend into complete and total chaos without electricity. Oops, there goes the 21st century…
How long could you survive without electricity?
Whenever I witness the sun unleashing large solar flares and/or a very large sunspot group, it makes me a bit uneasy. There are forces completely out of our control, some of which would entirely end life as we know it. Let’s hope that sunspot group AR2192 isn’t the one…
UPDATE (for your information)
Scientists classify solar flares according to their x-ray ‘brightness’. There are 3 categories:
X-class flares are BIG; major events that can trigger planet-wide radio blackouts and long-lasting radiation storms – or potentially a 21st Century ending event.
M-class flares are medium-sized; they can cause brief radio blackouts that affect Earth’s polar regions. Minor radiation storms sometimes follow an M-class flare.
Compared to X- and M-class events, C-class flares are small with few noticeable consequences here on Earth.
It looks like this latest solar flare is settling out to be X3.1