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A Valentine's Day solar flare

A region in the Sun's southern hemisphere let loose a strong solar flare, the largest one since December 2006 and the biggest so far in Solar Cycle 24.

021411_solar-flare-close-up
Active region 1158 let loose with an X2.2 flare late on February 15, the largest flare since Dec. 2006 and the biggest flare so far in Solar Cycle 24. Active Region 1158 is in the southern hemisphere, which has been lagging the north in activity but now leads in big flares. Here is a blowup of the flaring region taken by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory in the extreme ultraviolet wavelength of 193 Angstroms. Much of the vertical line in the image is caused by the bright flash overwhelming the SDO imager.
NASA/SDO

Looks like the new solar cycle is beginning to ramp up. The Sun emitted its first X-class flare in more than 4 years on February 14 at 8:56 p.m. EST.

X-class flares are the most powerful of all solar events that can trigger radio blackouts and long-lasting radiation storms.

Active region 1158 let loose with an X2.2, the largest flare since Decemeber 2006 and the biggest flare so far in Solar Cycle 24. Active region 1158 is in the southern hemisphere, which has been lagging the north in activity but now leads in big flares.

This particular flare comes on the heels of a few M-class and several C-class flares over the past few days.

The particle cloud produced by the Valentine's Day event appears to be rather weak and is not expected to produce any strong effects at Earth other than perhaps some beautiful aurorae in the high northern and southern latitudes on February 17.

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