Information from http://www.swpc.noaa.gov/info/SolarEffects.html
Space Weather Operations
SWPC’s Space Weather Operations branch (SWO) is the national and world warning center for disturbances that can affect people and equipment working in the space environment. Jointly operated by NOAA and the U.S. Air Force, SWO provides forecasts and warnings of solar and geomagnetic activity to users in government, industry, and the private sector.
SWO continuously monitors, analyzes, and forecasts the environment between the Sun and Earth. The Center receives solar and geophysical data in real time from a large number of ground-based observatories and satellite sensors around the world. SWO forecasters use these data to predict solar and geomagnetic activity and issue worldwide alerts of extreme events.
The Sun goes through cycles of high and low activity that repeat approximately every 11 years. The number of dark spots on the Sun (sunspots) marks this variation; as the number of sunspots increases, so does solar activity. Sunspots are sources of flares, the most violent events in the solar system. In a matter of minutes, a large flare releases a million times more energy than the largest earthquake.
Episodic solar activity has a number of effects that are of interest to us. A radiation dose from energetic particles is an occasional hazard for astronauts and for electronics on satellites. Geomagnetic field disturbances may damage power systems, disrupt communications, degrade high-tech navigation systems, or create the spectacular aurora (Northern and Southern lights). SWPC provides warnings of these events and continues the solar monitoring that began 400 years ago with Galileo’s invention of the telescope.
About the Solar X-ray status monitor
Information from http://www.n3kl.org/sun/status.html
The X-ray Solar status monitor downloads data periodically from the NOAASpace Environment Center FTP server. The previous 24 hours of 5 minute Long-wavelength X-ray data from each satellite (GOES 8 and GOES 10) is analyzed, and an appropriate level of activity for the past 24 hours is assigned as follows:
||Normal: Solar X-ray flux is quiet (< 1.00e-6 W/m^2)|
||Active: Solar X-ray flux is active (>= 1.00e-6 W/m^2)|
||M Class Flare: An M Class flare has occurred (X-ray flux >= 1.00e-5 W/m^2)|
||X Class Flare: An X Class flare has occurred (X-ray flux >= 1.00e-4 W/m^2)|
About the Geomagnetic Field status monitor
The Geomagnetic Field status monitor downloads data periodically from the NOAA Space Environment Center FTP server. The previous 24 hours of 3 hour Planetary Kp Index data is analyzed and an appropriate level of activity for the past 24 hours is assigned as follows:
||Quiet: the Geomagnetic Field is quiet (Kp < 4)|
||Active: the Geomagnetic Field has been unsettled (Kp=4)|
||Storm: A Geomagnetic Storm has occurred (Kp>4)|