"When you take overall intensity and length — how long it persisted — we're confident in saying by some measures, it was the strongest storm we've seen since November 2004," Rutledge said. "That doesn't mean that between November 2004 and today we haven't had brief periods that were more intense. If you look at the storm overall for length and strength, it was the strongest storm since November 2004." [Photos: Solar Flare Eruptions of 2012]
A fast-moving cloud of solar plasma and charged particles, called a coronal mass ejection, was triggered by the Tuesday X-class eruptions, and this wave of energetic particles hit Earth yesterday. The resulting geomagnetic storm was weaker than expected, but solar physicists say there is a potential for conditions to escalate.
"We still have about a 40 percent chance of seeing another X flare," Rutledge said. "We still think it's fairly likely to see one later today, tomorrow or the next day. We're watching this region closely."
A coronal mass ejection from last night's flare is also approaching Earth, and while this one is expected to hit Earth directly on Sunday (March 11), experts at the Space Weather Prediction Center are not anticipating the effects to be very severe.
"[It] could cause storming levels that could reach the G3 (strong) level again, but we don't believe it will have quite the sustained intensity," Rutledge said.