Skooter reporting 03/08/12
For the first time in five years the largest solar storm is sprinting toward Earth, intimidating to let loose a violent flow of charged particles that could interrupt power grids, GPS and airplane flights.
The sun blew up Tuesday evening, and the effects should start slapping Earth between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. EST Thursday, according to forecasters at the U.S. government's Space Weather Prediction Center. The storm, which started with a gigantic solar flare, is mounting as it hurtles outward from the sun.
Joe Kunches, a scientist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said that the storm is hitting Earth right in the nose. He called it the sun's version of "Super Tuesday."
The sun has been moderately quiet for some time, scientists said. And this solar storm, while resilient, may seem severe because Earth has been calmed by several years of weak solar activity.
Bill Murtagh, program coordinator for the space weather center said that this is a good-size event, but not the super type.
Kunches said the solar storm is expected to last until Friday morning, but the region in the sun that exploded can still send more blasts toward Earth. Another set of active sunspots is all set to aim at Earth right after this storm, he said.
Currently, scientists are in the offing to see what happens Thursday when the charged particles strike Earth at 4 million mph (6.4 million kph). Surely, it could give a bit of a jolt, said NASA solar physicist Alex Young. But then he said this is far from a super solar form.
The latest blast of particles will most likely arrive a little later than forecasters first believed. So for North America the “good” part of a solar storm is the one that creates more visible auroras or Northern Lights and is expected to peak Thursday evening. Auroras could reach as far as south as the Great Lakes states or down below, but sorry to say, a full moon will disrupt the spectacular phenomenon. It means if there is a full moon it will make them difficult for one to see.
Auroras are "probably the treat we get when the sun erupts," Kunches said. But in the other hand solar storms could possibly create extensive problems and there are three ways the storms can interrupt technology driven Earth such as magnetic, radio and radiation emissions. According to Kunches, this is an extraordinary situation when all three types of solar storm disturbances are liable to be strong.
That means "a whole host of things" could follow, he said. The magnetic part of the storm has the possibility to disrupt electrical power grids. Such as in 1989, a powerful solar storm hit the power grid in Quebec, resulting to lose power and affected 6 million people. Other solar storm threats are it causes global positioning systems less accurate and outages, it can cause communication problems, adding radiation around the north and south poles, and could upset satellites too.
Rob Navias, NASA spokesman said the space agency isn't taking any extra safety measures to protect astronauts on the International Space Station from added radiation.
Source: AP/ LA Daily News