First Earth Directed X-Flare of 2015

Oh man, remember that aurora watch I told you about? Sunspot AR2297 hurled solar plasma in our direction on March 11, 2015 at speeds of 1,400 KM/second – 3.1 million MPH in case you aren’t paying attention. A powerful X2 flare (with a blast zone bigger than Earth) ionized upper layers of our atmosphere causing HF radio blackouts and the promise of kicken’ northern hemisphere Auroras.We won’t know until March 13 or 14 if the blast is truly Earth directed or just a glancing blow. Some sites credit it as the first “Earth directed” blast of 2015.

Either way, our planet won’t escape repercussions. In the past 5 days, AR2297 has taunted us with 7 “moderate” intentions. Do yourself a favor northern hemisphere residents – find a dark sky and welcome Aurora.

The first X-flare of 2015 from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory

Extreme ultraviolet radiation from the explosion ionized the upper layers of Earth’s atmosphere, causing HF radio fade-outs and other propagation effects on the dayside of our planet. In the red zone of this map, ham radio operators and mariners may have noticed brief but complete blackout conditions at frequencies below 10 MHz.


Aurora Watch

For 3 days sunspot AR2297 has produced eruptions of solar plasma. Today a powerful M9 flare proved this sunspot has lots more to say. Radiation (able to reach our planet within 8 minutes ) swiftly impacted HF radio frequencies over the Pacific Ocean. Few people would notice blinky radio signals, Auroras are an entirely different matter.

Envy can’t begin to describe my dismay over residing outside the Auroral Oval – that sweet spot where Northern Lights dance with wild abandon. Yesterday found me grumpy over a CIR, (co-rotating interaction region) alert – transition zones between slow and fast moving solar winds that pile up solar plasma and spark auroras when impacting the magnetosphere. As if that wasn’t enough, AR2297 unleashed a M9 in case I wasn’t paying attention.

All I can hope is to live vicariously through those lucky enough to fall under Aurora’s spell. This is the weekend to welcome Aurora.

March 7, 2015 M9 class eruption captured by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory.