FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Barbara McGehan
A large complex sunspot group has produced
one of the largest solar flares and associated radiation storms
seen in recent years. The solar flare occurred on the sun at
about 6:24 a.m. EDT on July 14, according to forecasters at NOAA's Space Environment Center
in Boulder, Colo. Solar flares are classified by their peak x-ray
intensity and this event was classified as an X-5.9, on a scale
of 20, which is considered to be a strong event.
The solar flare has already caused some effects on Earth including strong radio blackouts at the R-3 level on the sunlit side of the Earth. A solar radiation storm is also in progress (S-3 on the NOAA Space Weather Scales) which is categorized as strong. This is the largest solar radiation storm since October of 1989. Solar radiation storms can reach Earth very quickly and can cause effects such as low-level radiation for commercial jet crews flying at high latitudes and single event upsets for satellites.
In addition, there is a good chance of seeing the Aurora Borealis Saturday night through Sunday morning in the mid-latitudes and possibly lower. Cities such as Washington, D.C., Seattle, New York, and Denver (with the possibility of other cities located in the southern U.S.) may be able to observe this phenomena.
NASA's ACE satellite, in orbit between the Earth and
Sun at a distance of one million miles from Earth, will detect
any geomagnetic storms approaching Earth and provide NOAA forecasters
with a warning about one hour before they reach Earth's magnetic