The sun unleashed its first super-powerful flare of the year today, and the intense eruption was aimed directly at Earth, space weather experts say. Solar flares are often accompanied by coronal mass ejections, or CMEs, enormous clouds of superheated plasma that streak through space at millions of miles per hour. While the radiation from a flare reaches Earth in just minutes, it typically takes CMEs several days to get here. Powerful Earth-directed CMEs can cause geomagnetic storms that disrupt power grids and satellite navigation. The source of this flare is sunspot AR 2838 now growing near the sun's northwestern limb. Yesterday it did not even exist, highlighting the unpredictability of solar activity. More flares may be in the offing. It's not yet clear whether a CME is associated with today's event. Because AR 2838 is already approaching the west limb, any associated CME activity would likely be directed away from Earth. R3 Strong Radio Blackout The blast of x-rays traveled toward earth at the speed of light, colliding with the top of our atmosphere and causing a shortwave radio blackout over the Atlantic ocean and coastal regions. Mariners, aviators, and amateur radio operators may have noticed unusual propagation effects below 30 MHz just after 14:29 UT. Stay Tuned!