Sunspot AR1515 has been keeping my inbox busy with near constant solar flare alerts from the Australian Space Forecast Centre. Behemoth sunspot AR1515 is crackling with M-class solar flares and appears to be on the verge of producing an X-class explosion. NOAA forecasters estimate an 80% chance of M-flares and a 10% chance of X-flares during the next 24 hours.
On July 4th, sunspot AR1515 hurled at least four minor CMEs into space. Most flew south of the orbital plane of the planets. One of them, however, appears to be heading toward Earth. According to analysts at the Goddard Space Weather Lab, who prepared the forecast, the cloud will reach Earth on July 7th around 0600 UT (1AM East Coast Time).
With the current 11-year solar cycle due to peak during the end of 2012 and during 2013, whenever I see such a LARGE sunspot, I remember my history regarding the 1859 Carrington Event. If and when such a large solar flare were to occur today, we would quite simply be ‘screwed’. The power grids would fail. For a long time. Check out some of my previous articles regarding this subject to get more detail (search ‘power grid’ or articles with ‘EMP’ tag).
There is NO WAY TO KNOW if a given large sunspot will unleash a super X-Flare, one which scientists KNOW will happen again one day – they just don’t know when. Given that fact… one would think it to be prudent to prepare in some way for living without electricity for a time, and all of the ‘bad’ that would go along with it.
Update: MAJOR X1.1 FLARE, 23:08 UTC, July 6, Giant sunspot AR1515 unleashed a strong X1.1-class solar flare on July 6th at 2308 UT. Because Earth is well-connected to the blast site by solar magnetic fields, protons accelerated by the explosion might soon reach our planet. Stay tuned for updates…