SpaceWeather.com just released the following notification:
Long-lived sunspot AR1967 returned to the Earthside of the sun on Feb. 25th and promptly erupted, producing an X4.9-class solar flare. This is the strongest flare of the year so far and one of the strongest of the current solar cycle.
This is a very massive CME projected from the sun. It is *not* earthbound, as the sunspot was pointed away from earth. This time. This sunspot, AR1967, is rounding its way towards earth, though, and scientists have previously stated concern that the sunspot could launch a large CME towards earth.
The CME just generated by this sunspot can be considered a near miss, and was powerful enough that it may have caused damage here on earth. It’s difficult to know the potential damage a CME can cause, as there are several factors considered.
Note that sunspots are renumbered when each time they appear on the earth-facing side, and this one was redesigned AT1990.
Here is the full text from SpaceWeather.com:
X-FLARE! Returning sunspot AR1967 unleashed a powerful X4.9-class solar flare on Feb. 25th at 00:49 UTC. This is the most intense flare of 2014 so far, and one of the most intense of the current solar cycle. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory recorded the extreme ultraviolet flash:
Although this flare is impressive, its effects are mitigated by the location of the blast site–near the sun’s southeastern limb, and not facing Earth. Indeed, a bright coronal mass ejection (CME) which raced away from the sun shortly after the flare appears set to miss our planet:
Radio emissions from shock waves at the leading edge of the CME suggest an expansion velocity near 2000 km/s or 4.4 million mph. If such a fast-moving cloud did strike Earth, the resulting geomagnetic storms could be severe. However, because its trajectory is so far off the sun-Earth line, the CME will deliver a glancing blow, at best, and probably no blow at all.
The source of the eruption is long-lived sunspot AR1967, now beginning its third trip across the Earthside of the sun. This region was an active producer of flares during its previous transits, and it looks like the third time will be little different. By tradition, sunspots are renumbered each time they return, so AR1967 will soon have a new designation. (Update: The new name of this sunspot is AR1990.)