Second Biggest Flare of the Solar Cycle
The sun erupted with one of the largest solar flares of this solar cycle on March 7th, 2012 at 02:25am South African time. A coronal mass ejection (CME), propelled toward Earth by yesterday's X5-class solar flare, reached our planet today at 14:00.
Dr Pierre Cilliers a researcher at SANSA said "The solar flare was accompanied by an intense proton storm which may have had an impact on statelites orbiting the Earth". The sun is constantly active and is always emitting particles, usually protons and electrons, which flow through the solar system this is called solar wind"
A CME is a massive ejection that moves out from the sun when stored energy is suddenly released. The CME produces a burst of high energy particles traveling a supersonic speed. When a CME is ejected towards Earth it reaches us within a day or two and may cause a geomagnetic storm and disturbances in the ionosphere. The effects of a CME will not harm humans and other life form on Earth as we are protected by the Earth's magnetic field, but it can cause disturbances to our communications systems like GPS, radio communications, cell phones, DSTV and our electrical power supplies.
The sun goes through 11-year cycles of solar activity; solar maxima, which is when the sun is very active and solar minima when the sun is less active. The current cycle of the sun is approaching its solar maximum which is expected during 2013. This means for the next couple of years we can expect to experience more frequent solar flares with subsequent disturbances to our technological systems.
"The region of the sun that erupted yesterday is very active and more CME's can be expected. This flare is an intense one but as it is not directed at earth it will only cause minor disturbances." said Dr Cilliers.