Two new solar flares erupted from the sun on March 10, blasting streams of plasma and charged particles into space.
The outbursts were both categorized as M-class solar flares, and exploded from the surface of the sun at 12:27 a.m. EST(0527 GMT) and 12:44 p.m. EST (1744 GMT), respectively, according to NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. These two flares came from the same Active Region (AR) on the sun, designated number 1429, that has already produced three X-class and numerous M-class flares over the past week. On March 6, two powerful X-class eruptions triggered the strongest solar storm in eight years, according to solar physicists at the Space Weather Prediction Center, which is jointly operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Weather Service. This flares also unleashed a wave of plasma and charged particles, called a coronal mass ejection (CME), into space. NASA’s Space Weather Center models measure the CME traveling at speeds of over 700 miles per second. The CME should reach Earth’s magnetosphere, the protective envelope of magnetic fields around the planet, early in the morning of March 11, on the heels of a previous CME released by an earlier flare this week. When these particles arrive at our planet, they could interfere with satellite communications and even power grids on the ground. They are also likely to spark auroras, or northern and southern lights, which are caused when charged particles collide with Earth’s magnetic field.