UPDATE: Three X-class solar flares in 24 hours, with a fourth Tuesday night!
Wednesday Morning Update: Last night, May 14, a fourth X-class solar flare erupted from the Sun, but it was not the strongest one of this week. It was also not directed at Earth. The X1.2-class solar flare registered at 9:48 p.m. EDT on May 14, 2013 on the GOES X-ray monitor. Another CME carrying solar plasma spewed from the Sun.
IMAGE: NASA SDO
RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) – The Sun is showing serious signs of reaching its expected solar maximum of activity in 2013 this week. In 24 hours on Sunday into Monday, one particularly active region of the Sun (not Earth-facing yet) expelled three X-class solar flares, each one stronger than the previous one. These are the strongest flares of the year.
The first flare was an X1.7-class late Sunday night, followed by an X2.8-class flare Monday. Both expelled coronal mass ejections (CMEs) off the upper left side of the Sun, not directed at Earth.
The third flare (pictured below) was the biggest, an X3.2-class, Monday night. It was the third X-class flare in the 24 hour period. This flare was also not directed at Earth.
Credit: NASA SDO
These three flares come on the heels of an uptick in solar activity in May. This image below shows some of the noteworthy solar flares from May 1 through May 13, 2013. All of these originated over the northeastern limb of the Sun, but from different active regions. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) says that “looking through the SDO AIA instrument, they appear to all be around the same area of the Sun.”
Credit: NASA SDO
The Solar Dynamics Observatory shared this update and video below on their Facebook Page Monday night about the first two X-class flares this week:
“On May 12-13 the Sun erupted with an X1.7-class and an X2.8-class flare as well as two coronal mass ejections, or CMEs, off the upper left side of the Sun. Solar material also danced and blew off the sun in what’s called a prominence eruption, both in that spot and on the lower right side of the sun. This movie compiles imagery of this activity from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory and from the ESA/NASA Solar Heliospheric Observatory.”
Credit: NASA SDO, NASA/ESA SOHO
Music: “Long Range Cruise” by Lars Leonhard, courtesy of the artist and BineMusic. www.lars-leonhard.de
To learn more about the way solar flares are ranked, CLICK HERE.
The Sun has an 11-year natural cycle, where there are “quiet” years leading up to “peak activity” years. 2013 is the expected peak of this solar cycle, which may end up having a double-peak.