Thursday, March 08, 2012

Largest solar storm in 5 years heads to Earth

The largest solar storm in five years is heading toward Earth, threatening to unleash a torrent of charged particles that could disrupt power grids, GPS and airplane flights. However while the Coronal Mass Ejection, or CME, has been billed as significant, most people will likely experience little of no disruption to their daily lives.

One phenomena that could be observed were the large sun spots seen on the surface of the sun as activity rose and passed through an 11-year cycle. The flares can also result in the Northern Lights, or aurorae, being visible at lower latitudes. Those living in northern England, Canada and other northern latitudes may be lucky enough to witness the colourful spectacle.

The sun is currently in a cycle of increased sun spots, part of an 11-year cycle that is expected to peak over the next year. The magnetic field in a sunspot stores energy that is released in solar flares. These flares are intense bursts of radiation that get ejected into space and could create problems for modern radio communications.

So far there have been few signs that any disruption has bee caused, though NASA have released some dramatic shots taken by Solar Heliospheric Observatory [SOHO] probe and the Solar Dynamics Observatory [SDO].

The peak of the storm, forecast as a reaching a strong G3 rating, was expected to hit Thursday morning and will gradually diminish by Friday morning [Sky / BBC / CNN]

tvnewswatch, London, UK

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