A most powerful solar flares erupted from the sun on March 4 sending an explosion of plasma and charged particles hurtling toward Earth.
Flares occur when accelerated charged particles, mainly electrons, interact with the plasma medium. Solar flares, depending on the power of X-ray, are classified as A, B, C, M or X. According to the Space Weather Prediction Center operated by the National Weather Service the latest flare was an X1.1-class solar flare and exploded from the surface of the sun at 11:13 p.m. EST (0413 GMT March 5). X-class flares are the most powerful type of solar storm, with M-class eruptions falling within the mid-range, and C-class flares being the weakest. The X-class flare unleashed a wave of plasma and charged particles, called a coronal mass ejection (CME), into space. Several spacecraft, including NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory and the Solar Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO), observed the extreme ultraviolet flash from the flare. This latest solar flare is the second X-class sun storm of 2012. The first solar flares occurred on January 27, 2012 and registered as an X1.7. Last night’s solar flare burst from a big sunspot region called AR1429, which has been particularly active since it materialized on March 2. This same region produced an M2-class eruption yesterday, which also triggered a CME that is currently approaching Earth and could deliver a glancing blow tonight at around 11:30 p.m. EST (0430 GMT Tuesday, March 6). Currently, the sun is in the midst of Solar Cycle 24, and activity is expected to ramp up toward the solar maximum in 2013.