X-FLARE: For days, giant sunspot AR1515 has looked capable of producing a really strong explosion. On July 6th it finally did. Yesterday, the sunspot’s magnetic canopy erupted, producing a brief but potent X1.1-class solar flare. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory recorded the extreme ultraviolet flash:
The explosion hurled a CME into space. According to this movie from the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, the cloud appears to be heading south and away from Earth. However, we cannot yet rule out a glancing blow to our planet on July 8th or 9th. Stay tuned for further analysis.
Look at the CME movie one more time. The speckles near the end are caused by energetic protons accelerated by the flare. Guided toward Earth by solar magnetic fields, the protons are peppering Earth-orbiting satellites, causing “snow” in imaging systems and posing a slim threat for single-event upsets (computer glitches).