First X-Class Solar Flares of 2013
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 another solar phenomenon, called a coronal mass ejection (CME) that can send solar material out into space. This CME was not Earth-directed.
On May 13, 2013, the sun emitted an X2.8-class flare, peaking at 12:05 p.m. EDT. This is the the strongest X-class flare of 2013 so far, surpassing in strength the X1.7-class flare that occurred 14 hours earlier. It is the 16th X-class flare of the current solar cycle and the third-largest flare of that cycle. The second-strongest was an X5.4 event on March 7, 2012. The strongest was an X6.9 on Aug. 9, 2011.
The X2.8-class 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. The CME was not Earth-directed, but could pass NASA's STEREO-B, Messenger and Spitzer spacecraft. Their mission operators have been notified. Experimental NASA research models show that the CME left the sun at 1,200 miles per second beginning at 12:18 p.m. EDT. If warranted, operators can put spacecraft into safe mode to protect the instruments from solar material.