It is being called by WaPo “The Biggest solar storm since 2005“. The sun erupted late on January 22nd, 2012 with an M8.7 class flare. The Solar Dynamics Observatory captured the flare as seen below.
From NASA: The coronal mass ejection CME collided with Earth’s magnetic field a little after 10 AM ET on January 24, 2012. The influx of particles from the CME amplified the solar radiation storm such that it is now considered the largest since October 2003. NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center has categorized it as a “strong” — or S3 (with S5 being the highest) – storm. Solar radiation storms can affect satellite operations and short wave radio propagation, but cannot harm humans on Earth. Auroras may well be visible tonight at higher latitudes such as Michigan and Maine in the U.S., and perhaps even lower.
CME IMPACT: As expected, a CME hit Earth’s magnetic field on Jan. 24th at approximately 1500 UT (10 am EST). A G1-class geomagnetic storm is in progress now, producing bright auroras around the Arctic Circle. Sky watchers in Canada, Alaska, and states along the US-Canadian border should be alert for Northern Lights after nightfall. Tip: The hours around local midnight are often best for aurora sightings. Aurora alerts: text, voice.
In Lofoton, Norway, the CME’s arrival produced a surge in ground currents outside the laboratory of Rob Stammes:
“The expected CME arrived and showed up on my instruments at 15.10 UTC–a fantastic shockwave followed by a magnetic storm,” says Stammes. “This could be a happy day for many aurora watchers.”
Indeed, the first auroras, post-impact, have been sighted in northern Europe. Antti Pietikäinen sends this picture from Muonio in the Finnish Lapland:
“We went out with snowmobiles to wait for the incoming storm,” says Pietikäinen. “The show started slowly, but after 15mins the landscape was green! This was the first time for Thomas (pictured above) to see the Northern Lights. He was very happy.”