The sun erupts with one of the largest solar flares of this solar cycle in this NASA handout photo taken on March 6, 2012. This flare was categorized as an X5.4, making it the second largest flare — after an X6.9 on August 9, 2011 – since the sun’s activity segued into a period of relatively low activity called solar minimum in early 2007. The current increase in the number of X-class flares is part of the sun’s normal 11-year solar cycle, during which activity on the sun ramps up to solar maximum, which is expected to peak in late 2013.
NASA handout image shows the Sun acquired by the Solar Dynamics Observatory on March 8, 2012. A strong geomagnetic storm is racing from the Sun toward Earth, and its expected arrival on Thursday could affect power grids, airplane routes and space-based satellite navigation systems, U.S. space weather experts said.