The sun unleashed an X1.8 class flare that began at 1:12 PM ET on January 27, 2012 and peaked at 1:37. The flare immediately caused a strong radio blackout at low-latitudes, which was rated an R3 on NOAA's scale from R1-5. The blackout soon subsided to a minor R1 storm.
Models from NASA's Goddard Space Weather Center predict that the CME is traveling at over 1500 miles per second. It does not initially appear to be Earth-directed, but Earth may get a glancing blow.
Initial movies from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) look as though there was an eruption and coronal mass ejection (CME) associated with the event, and NOAA's GOES satellite also detected a solar energetic particle (SEP) event a half hour after the flare peak. How these CMEs and SEPs form and evolve, as well as their association with the flare event itself will be studied in the coming hours and days as more data and movies from NASA's SDO, STEREO and SOHO instruments become available.
What is a solar flare? What is a coronal mass ejection?
For answers to these and other space weather questions, visit NASA's Spaceweather Frequently Asked Questions page at: www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/sunearth/spaceweather/index.html
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