As seen here by the Solar Dynamics Observatory, a long duration M3-class flare began erupting on the Sun from sunspot region 1401 at 13:42 UTC (8:42 AM ET) today, Thursday, January 19, 2012, sending a coronal mass ejection (CME) directly towards Earth. Scientists predict the CME will arrive at around 16:00 UTC on January 21, 2012 GMT. Spaceweather.com says strong geomagnetic storms are possible and high-latitude (and possibly middle-latitude) skywatchers can be on the lookout for increased aurora.
NASA’s Space Weather Services estimates that the CME is traveling at over 1,000 kilometers per second (630 miles per second).
This same region produced some spectacular loop structures made of superheated plasma earlier this week. Just one of these loops is the size of several Earths. These loops can have a wide range of temperatures, many reaching several million Kelvin:
Earlier this week the Sun sent a similar blast towards Venus.