NOAA Magazine || NOAA Home Page || Previous Story

SPECTACULAR FLARE ERUPTS ON SUN

Image from the SOHO spacecraft of the intense solar activity on the sun taken Oct. 27, 2003, at 9:24 a.m. EDT.Oct. 28, 2003 — As the sun continues to storm, a spectacular new flare erupted Tuesday. NOAA space weather forecasters categorized the flare, which occurred at 6:10 a.m. EST, as an X-17 with a full Coronal Mass Ejection or CME. The region producing this flare is 13 times larger than Earth. Forecasters at the NOAA Space Environment Center in Boulder, Colo., say that the flare caused a strong S-3 radiation event, on a scale of 1 to 5 on the NOAA space weather scales, and a severe R-4 radio blackout. Radiation storms can affect satellites and cause high frequency communication problems. An R-4 storm can affect high frequency radio blackouts for several hours on the sunlit side of the Earth. (Click here to view larger image from the SOHO spacecraft of the intense solar activity on the sun taken Oct. 27, 2003, at 9:24 a.m. EDT. Click here to view high resolution version, which is a large file. Click here to view latest images. Please credit “SOHO.”)

NOAA forecasters expect the fast moving blast from the sun to reach the Earth’s magnetic field on Wednesday at about midday, producing predominately a severe G-4 geomagnetic storm with possible periods of extreme G-5 storming. The solar radiation storm is also expected to continue at strong levels for the next few days.

The Aurora Borealis or northern lights may be visible in the northern tier of the U.S.

NOAA forecaster Bill Murtagh said this flare appears to be the second largest during this solar cycle. “This storm has a lot of similarities to the Bastille Day storm that occurred in July of 2000,” he said. That storm was also located near the center of the sun,and the associated coronal mass ejection also reached Earth very quickly. “The Bastille Day storm produced considerable disruption to both ground and space high-tech systems,” Murtagh said.

NOAA forecasters said the probability of another major flare occurring is high, and additional geomagnetic and radiation storms are likely.

NOAA is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of the nationís coastal and marine resources. NOAA is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Relevant Web Sites
NOAA Space Environment Center

NOAA Space Weather Scales

NOAA Solar X-ray Imager — Latest Views of the Sun

Latest SOHO images

Media Contact:
Barbara McGehan, NOAA Space Environment Center, (303) 497-6288