The Big ONE! (October 30, 2003)
Hi-res TIF image (6.8M)
Active region 10486, which had grown to one of the largest sunspot
seen by SOHO, unleashed a spectacular show on 28 October 2003. An X
17.2 flare, the second largest flare observed by SOHO and the third
largest ever recorded, blasted off a strong high energy proton event
and a fast-moving Coronal Mass Ejection. A flare is an intense solar
eruption, the largest known explosion in our solar system. It
appears as a bright flash in SOHO ultraviolet images. This was
slightly preceded by a Coronal Mass Ejection, which sent a large
particle cloud headed directly towards Earth. The expanding CME
cloud and subsequent particle hits on the SOHO imager can be seen in
the latter half of the video clip. The fast-moving cloud first
impacted Earth's magnetosphere a mere 19 hours later, almost a record
speed. Subsequent impacts were still occurring hours later. As a
result of this storm, aurora were seen as far south as Virginia and
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