Thu, 14 Jun 2012 20:00 CDT
A color-coded image from the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly on NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory highlights the solar flare thrown off from the sun's disk today in shades of gold and yellow.
For the second day in a row, the sun has sent a blast of electrically charged particles toward Earth - and according to SpaceWeather.com, that means we're in for a double shot of geomagnetic activity early Saturday
. But not to worry: The most noticeable effect of the twin M-class blasts should be heightened auroral displays.
Both of the coronal mass eruptions, or CMEs, originated in a sunspot region known as AR1504, which is currently pointing in Earth's direction. AR1504 has been shooting off a series of flares in recent days, including an M1.2-class flare on Wednesday and an M1.5 today. None of the flares have approached the X-class level, which would have the potential for significant disruptions in power grids or satellite-based communication.
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SpaceWeather.com projects that the CMEs thrown off by those two flares will merge into one wave of particles that's due to hit Earth's magnetic field around 6:16 a.m. ET Saturday. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Space Weather Prediction Center, meanwhile, predicts that the CME will arrive "late on 16 June." The prediction center noted that today's flare sparked a minor radio blackout and "has the potential" to produce more such storms.
NASA's STEREO-Ahead spacecraft records the massive coronal mass ejection thrown off by today's solar eruption. The glare of the sun's disk is blocked at the center of the image.