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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Heads Up for Aurora Watchers

The largest solar flare in 4 years and the first X-flare of the current solar cycle peaked at 3:56 AM Israel Standard Time on February 15th. The flare, which released a huge burst of ultraviolet light, was followed by a coronal mass ejection (CME) which is expected to reach earth Feb. 16 and 17.

An X2 class solar flare peaked on Feb. 15, 2011, at 3:56AM IST. (Click for animated image)

Coronal mass ejections can cause electromagnetic disturbances and auroras visible world-wide. Auroras are usually only visible from high northern latitudes, but a disturbance as large as a CME can create auroras when the charged particles of the sun's atmosphere interact with the earth's magnetic field that are even visible from far southerly latitudes.

The coronal mass ejection was captured by NASA's STEREO-B spacecraft.

It will pay to keep on looking up! when you are out the next few nights to look for any auroral displays. The waxing gibbous moon will interfere but a bright aurora can be seen nevertheless.

Remember to Keep on looking up!

Update on 2/18/2011: It looks like the coronal mass ejection missed the earth and there will be few electromagnetic or power disturbances. There may still be enhanced auroral activity, so keep your peepers ready. (

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