sdo_flare_feb252014_0045utc_zoom.jpg.CROP.original-originalLong-lived sunspot AR1967 returned to the Earthside of the sun on Feb. 25th and promptly erupted, producing an X4.9-class solar flare.  This is the strongest flare of the year so far and one of the strongest of the current solar cycle. A movie from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory shows the explosion hurling a loop of hot plasma away from the blast site: Coronagraphs onboard the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory tracked this material as it raced away from the sun, eventually forming a bright CME, pictured below. Radio emissions from shock waves at the leading edge of the CME suggest an expansion velocity near 2000 km/s or 4.4 million mph. If such a fast-moving cloud did strike Earth, the resulting geomagnetic storms could be severe. However, because its trajectory is so far off the sun-Earth line, the CME will deliver a no more than a glancing blow. NOAA forecasters expect a weak impact late in the day on Feb. 26th. Extinction Protocol