On Thursday, April 11, the sun let off an M6.5 solar flare and its accompanying coronal mass ejection, more commonly called a CME, which is directed at Earth. The solar particles that result from such an event are traveling at a speed of about 600 miles per second, and are expected to reach Earth Friday night into the weekend. Such an event disrupted some radio communications.
Before you begin imaging a scenario similar to certain end-of-times movies where characters go from innocently watching television to being shrouded in darkness and chaos, keep in mind this event will be far less eventful, possibly disrupting radios and GPS starting Friday night. Because the event was observed, some preparations can be made in anticipation of the incoming solar particles, helping protect satellites and other vulnerable equipment from damage.
A CME that is Earth-bound, according to NASA, can result in a geomagnetic storm as it colides with the magnetosphere. In addition, this particular event caused what is reported as a weak solar energetic particle event close to our planet, which results when charged particles are thrust towards Earth. Harmful radiation can result from such an event, but is of no concern to us because it is blocked by the atmosphere.
Says NASA, an M-class solar flare is ten times weaker than an X-class solar flare, and is the weakest flare still capable of creating solar storms near our planet. The result from this particular event was an R2 radio blackout, which is low on a scale that ranges from R1 to R5. Still, this is the strongest solar flare that has happened this year, and is ahead of anticipated increased activity later this year. This is the result of the sun's 11-year activity cycle approaching solar maximum in the ebb and flow of things.