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Sun Blasts Massive X2 Solar Flare At Earth

A massive X2 class solar flare erupted from a new sunspot called Active Region 3229 on Friday (Feb 17th) while the Earth was under a geomagnetic storm watch.

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Zac Aubert

Zac Aubert

Sun Feb 19 2023Written by Zac Aubert

A massive X2 class solar flare erupted from a new sunspot called Active Region 3229 on Friday (Feb 17th) while the Earth was under a geomagnetic storm watch.

The powerful storm comes following a series of strong flares and coronal mass ejection from the sun in recent days. A geomagnetic storm warning was issued for the Northern Latitudes of Earth for Feb 16-18, with these storms being powerful enough for the auroras to be visible as far south as Idaho and New York.

The power X2.2 solar flare began at 2:38pm ET (19:38 UTC) and reach its peak strength 48 minutes later. The solar storm lasted a total of 72 minutes. The sun side of the Earth experience temporary radio blackouts according to an alert released by the US Space Weather Prediction Group operated by NOAA. This flare unleashed a coronal mass ejection that can travel up to 1 million mph and is expected to reach Earth on Feb 20 supercharging the Earths auroras

What is a Solar Flare?

A solar flare is a sudden and powerful eruption of energy from the surface of the Sun, resulting in the release of a massive amount of radiation, including X-rays and ultraviolet light. Solar flares are often accompanied by coronal mass ejections (CMEs), which are large clouds of magnetized plasma that are expelled from the Sun's corona and can travel through space.

Solar flares are categorized on a scale from A-X. X flares are the most powerful type of flare, while A , B and C flares are among the weakest. The Earths auroras are commonly amplified by moderate M flares and stronger events.

The Sun Has A Solar Cycle?

The Sun's Solar Cycle is a natural 11-year period of activity that occurs due to the magnetic activity of the Sun. The cycle starts when the Sun's magnetic field reaches a minimum, and the number of sunspots is relatively low. As the cycle progresses, the magnetic field becomes more complex, and the number and intensity of sunspots increases. Sunspots are areas of magnetic disturbance on the Sun's surface that appear as dark spots and can be several times the size of Earth. As the solar cycle continues, the sunspots increase in number and size, and the Sun's magnetic field becomes more active. This activity can produce solar flares and coronal mass ejections that can impact Earth's atmosphere and cause disturbances in the Earth's magnetic field.

The solar cycle has important effects on space weather and can impact communication systems, power grids, and other technological infrastructure on Earth. For example, solar storms can cause geomagnetic storms that disrupt communication systems and power grids, leading to blackouts and other problems. Therefore, understanding the solar cycle and predicting future activity is important for protecting technology and infrastructure on Earth.

Scientists study the solar cycle by observing the number and intensity of sunspots and other solar activity, as well as the Sun's magnetic field. They use this data to create models and predictions about future activity. The study of the solar cycle is an ongoing area of research, and scientists continue to work on improving our understanding of this natural phenomenon.

Current Solar Cycle Status

We are currently in the 25th solar cycle since 1755 (when solar sunspot recording began). Our current solar cycle began in December 2019 with a sunspot number of 1.8.

There are many predicitions on what this cycle would be like with many predicting would be similar to Solar Cycle 24, with an average expected peak coming in July 2025 (± 8 months) with a sunspot number of 115 with some predictions saying peak maybe as high as 229(±25).

The current scientific consensus suggests that solar cycle 25 would be weaker than average, and these predictions align with the prevailing views in the scientific literature. However, observations from the first three years of the cycle, spanning 2020 to 2022, have surpassed the expected values by a significant margin with the Sun surpassing Solar Cycles 25 expected peak over year early prior to the expect peak window.

ISES Solar Cycle 25 Sunspot Number Progression and Predictions as of September 2022