The Sunspots That Kicked Off This Week's Solar Storm May be Just Warming Up

AR1302

Alan Friedman via Bad Astronomy

That gigantic solar flare that lashed out toward Earth on Saturday is "the geomagnetic storm that just won't go away," the NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) in Boulder, Colo., said via its Facebook page today. And that appears to be true. Active Region 1302, pictured above, continues to pummel earth with solar energy and could disrupt satellite communications as it continues turning toward us in the days to come.

AR1302 unleashed a massive coronal mass ejection on Saturday that struck a glancing blow off Earth's atmosphere yesterday, triggering brilliant auroras across the Northern Hemisphere. So far, the storm hasn't caused any serious trouble here on the ground. Saturday's solar explosion didn't connect with a direct hit, and it is expected to do nothing more than continue to provide electrifying light shows to sky-gazers in Europe and Asia this evening.

But AR1302 is also not slowing down, and as the week wears on it will turn to face Earth more directly. An SWPC bulletin yesterday warned that for the next 3-5 days, we're squarely in the solar storm's sights. Another blast like Saturday's and we may feel it here on Earth in the form of disrupted communications. A larger blast could do even more damage to the power grid and other infrastructure.

Just another thrilling week in the buildup to 2013's solar maximum. See the sun as NOAA's GOES-15 sees it today below.

Today's Solar Activity, Captured by NOAA's GOES-15

NOAA