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article imageTsunami of solar flares heading to Earth, may disrupt satellites

By Andrew Moran     Jun 8, 2011 in Science
Greenbelt - A "dramatic" solar flare has erupted from the sun, which has created spectacular images captured by NASA's observatories. Scientists believe it won't have a significant impact on Earth, but some communications satellites could be disrupted.
NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory viewed spectacular images from the sun on Tuesday. The sun unleashed a medium-sized M-2 solar flare, a coronal mass ejection (CME) and an S1-class radiation storm from sunspot complex 1226-1227.
At 1:41 a.m. (EST), all of the solar Heliophysics System Observatory missions witnessed the large cloud of bright plasma and high energy particles that came up and then fell down, which covered an area nearly half of the solar surface.
The CME is moving at 1,400 km/s and may have an effect on the Earth’s magnetic field on the nights of Jun. 8 and Jun. 9.
This is the largest blast of radiation on a level that has not been experienced since 2006.
The Space Weather Prediction Center issued a statement Tuesday where it forewarned of a G1 (minor) to G2 (moderate) levels of Geomagnetic Storm activity Wednesday.
“A prompt Solar Radiation Storm reached the S1 (minor) level soon after the impulsive R1 (minor) Radio Blackout at 0641 UTC,” said the National Weather Service. “The Solar Radiation Storm includes a significant contribution of high energy (>100 MeV) protons, the first such occurrence of an event of that type since December 2006.”
NASA scientists haven’t made any dire statements concerning the severity of these solar flares, but according to Agence-France Presse, officials have warned that Earth’s communications satellites could be disrupted.
“Generally it is not going to cause any big problems, it will just have to be managed. If you fly from the United States to Asia, flying over the North Pole, there are well over a dozen flights every day,” said principal investigator for the cosmic ray telescope for the effects of radiation (CRaTER).
“People operating satellites would keep an eye on this, too, because geomagnetic storming can interfere with satellites in various ways whether it is the satellite itself or the signal coming down from the receiver.”
The largest solar storm to hit Earth was back in 1859 when the solar flares disrupted telegraph lines and there were numerous fires reported in Canada, the United States and Europe. There were news reports of people gathering on street corners and some “old women being frightened to death.”
More about Solar flare, Communication satellites, Sun, Power outage, Coronal Mass Ejections
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