On May 12, 2013, the sun emitted a significant solar flare, peaking at 10 p.m. EDT. This flare is classified as an X1.7, making it the first X-class flare of 2013. The flare was also associated with a coronal mass ejection, or CME, another solar phenomenon that can send billions of tons of solar particles into space, which can potentially affect electronic systems in satellites and on the ground.
Experimental NASA research models show that the CME left the sun at 745 miles per second and is not Earth-directed, however its flank may pass by the STEREO-B and Spitzer spacecraft, and their mission operators have been notified.
The second flare, classified as an X2.8, was emitted at 3:30 p.m. EDT May 13.
The X2.8-class flare was also associated with a coronal mass ejection. The CME was not Earth-directed. Experimental NASA research models show that the CME left the sun at 1,200 miles per second beginning at 12:18 p.m. EDT.
The third significant solar flare was emitted in under 24 hours, peaking at 9:11 p.m. EDT on May 13, 2013. This flare is classified as an X3.2 flare. This is the strongest X-class flare of 2013 so far, surpassing in strength the two X-class flares that occurred earlier in the 24-hour period.
The flare was also associated with CME. The CME began at 9:30 p.m. EDT and was not Earth-directed. Experimental NASA research models show that the CME left the sun at approximately 1,400 miles per second, which is particularly fast for a CME.
The models suggest that it will catch up to the two CMEs associated with the earlier flares. The merged cloud of solar material will pass by the Spitzer spacecraft and may give a glancing blow to the STEREO-B and Epoxi spacecraft.
Their mission operators have been notified. If warranted, operators can put spacecraft into safe mode to protect the instruments from solar material.