By Brandon Mercer

(CBS SF) — A sunspot erupted this afternoon creating a powerful solar flare bathing Earth in electromagnetic radiation and causing temporary disruptions in some radio communication, according to, while a solar storm continues to rage.

The solar flares can trigger several types of events.  In today’s, the solar flare unleashed X-ray radiation, in addition to a solar particle event or “proton storm,” and it combined with a coronal mass ejection of charged particles, all hitting Earth and affecting Earth in different ways at different times.

NOAA sent out a space weather warning, indicating astronauts, spacecraft, and even airline passengers flying very high in the farthest northern latitudes will be exposed to increasing radiation.

NOAA reports the strong “proton event” was hitting earth Monday, and reports the following potential impacts from an “S3” event on a scale of S1 to S5:
Radiation – Passengers and crew in high latitude, high altitude flights may experience increasing radiation exposures. Astronauts on EVA (extra-vehicular activity) are exposed to elevated radiation levels.
Spacecraft – Single-event upsets to satellite operations, noise in imaging systems, and slight reduction of efficiency in solar panels are likely.
Radio – Degraded or episodically blacked-out polar HF (high frequency) radio propagation.”

In an S5 event, which would be two levels stronger, NOAA describes effects including  “Unavoidable high radiation hazard to astronauts on EVA (extra-vehicular activity); passengers and crew in high-flying aircraft at high latitudes may be exposed to radiation risk.”  Again, today’s event was an S3, two orders lower in magnitude.

The simultaneous release of X-ray radiation exceeded M6.5 on a scale rated in categories from A, B, C, M, and X, putting it in the strong side.  By comparison, several times in the past year, X-class flares have also hit Earth with even stronger radiation.

A graphic from the NOAA shows where radio was blocked out and which parts of the spectrum.

Radio blackout graphic from NOAA, June 22nd, 2015

Radio blackout graphic from NOAA, June 22nd, 2015

Besides the solar flare, the sun has also been actively throwing off a “coronal mass ejection” of charged particles.

These are different from solar flares, and take longer to reach earth, as they don’t travel at the speed of light like the X-ray events.

The “CME” as they are known could create interferences in the Earth’s magnetic field, and spark powerful auroras around midnight Monday, June 22nd.

The CME is shown in the picture above, and in the first tweet below.


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