Giant Solar Flare Ejects Coronal Light at Earth: Watch for Effects

As the Internet erupted in rage over Sopa and Pipa on Thursday, the sun erupted, too — with an exceedingly large and rare M-class solar flare. Depending on where you are in the world, you could be seeing and feeling its effects on Earth right now.
Photo Courtesy: NASA

Last Thursday, as the tech world was erupting over the twin anti-piracy bills it feared would censor the Internet, there was another eruption, according to NASA. On the Sun. And on January 21 and January 22, depending on where you are in the world, you might see and feel the effects of the giant M-Class solar flare that is now shooting a rapid beam right at us.

According to scientists, at 8:42 AM ET on Thursday, the M-Class flare began firing what NASA calls “an Earth-directed coronal mass ejection.” An M-Class flare is fairly rare, the second largest, after an X-Class flare, in terms of power and reach, scientists say. Here’s the image NASA captured of the flare on Thursday, which is already resulting in that powerful ejection of full-spectrum light particles headed straight for Earth .

Photo Courtesy: NASA

Strong geomagnetic storms are possible as a result of such a huge coronal ejection of light particles, scientists say. Traveling at 630 plus miles per hour, they’ll enter Earth’s magneto-orbit and could play havoc. Certainly, International Space Station astronauts are at risk for heavy radiation doses after an M or X-class flare. Even passengers in planes crossing near the poles are potentially subjected to increased radiation, scientists say.

Here on Earth, an M or X-class flare can take down electrical power for extended periods of time and affect radio communications, as well.

Yet a giant solar flare like this has a bright side, too. If skies are clear, watch tonight for auroras.

Here’s a close up look of what a coronal light ejection caused by a large solar flare looks like up close and personal. The photograph does not include the disc of the Sun so that the ejection would be optimally visible in the photo below.

Photo courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

M Solar and X Solar flares flares are infamous for knocking out electric power on Earth for long periods of time. Here’s a pic of an X-class solar flare erupting on the sun a few years ago.

Photo courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

Do let us know if you see the auroras or experience any problems with radio, cellular and other electronic equipment. With so many readers of all over the globe, we’d love to hear your experiences and general take on this.

Just in time for one of the biggest celebrations in the world, that of Lunar New Year, which officially begins Monday.

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