Solar Flares 2012: Another Storm Coming

Solar flare seen by NASA's orbiting Solar Dynamics Observatory. NASA/GSFC

Don't put away the tinfoil hats just yet.

Government space weather watchers say a new geomagnetic storm is on the way following an eruption on the surface of the sun Friday morning.

It should arrive at Earth on Sunday, but like the storm that arrived Thursday and is just passing, the impact is expected to be fairly minimal.

"It is going to affect the Earth," said Bob Rutledge, a forecaster at NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center in Boulder Colorado. "It's headed fairly directly at us."

While the storm is expected to reach "strong" or G-3 levels, (scale here) "we don't believe it will have the sustained intensity of the storm we just had," said Rutledge.

Planet Earth will remain in the bull's-eye until that giant, solar storm-spawning sunspot known as AR 1429 rotates out of view sometime next week.

Until then, Rutledge said there's still a 40 percent chance of another intense X-flare that could hurl intense storms our way. And we're probably going to be hearing a lot about space weather in coming months. This current solar cycle bringing increased activity won't peak until mid-2013.

Rutledge said that the geomagnetic storm just passing was the strongest since November of 2004. It was unleashed Tuesday by a powerful X-5 class solar flare on the surface of the Sun. On Friday morning it peaked as a G-3 level storm, though there were few if any reports of problems.

And finally, since it's a weekend, it seems only appropriate to crank up the speakers on this Sun-celebrating classic by the indie rockers They Might Be Giants. Enjoy.