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Active Region on the Sun Spits Out Three Flares
03.05.12
 
The Solar Dynamics Observatory captured the X1 flare, shown here in the 171 Angstrom wavelength, a wavelength typically shown in the color gold. This movie runs from 10 PM ET March 4 to 3 AM March 5, 2012. Credit: NASA/SDO/AIA
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On March 2, 2012 a new active region on the sun, region 1429, rotated into view. It has let loose two M-class flares and one X-class so far. The M-class flares erupted on March 2 and on March 4. The third flare, rated an X1, peaked at 10:30 ET on March 4. A CME accompanied each flare, though due to the fact that this active region is still off to the side of the sun, they will likely have a weak effect on Earth's magnetosphere.

The M class flare on March 4 flare also came with what's called a Type IV radio burst that lasted for about 46 minutes. Sending out broadband radio waves, these bursts can occur towards the end of a solar flare and are believed to be created by moving electrons trapped in great, looping magnetic fields left over from the initial flare. The bursts can interfere with radio communications on Earth.

Active region 1429 appears in the upper left corner, the source of 3 flares since March 2, 2012.
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This image from the Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager (HMI) on the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) shows active region 1429 in the upper left corner. This region erupted with M-class flares on March 2 and March 4. Credit: NASA/SDO/HMI



What is a solar flare? What is a coronal mass ejection?

For answers to these and other space weather questions, please visit the Spaceweather Frequently Asked Questions page.
 
 
Karen C. Fox
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD