Solar Flare: Massive Solar Flare

March 7, 2012 by staff 

Solar Flare: Massive Solar Flare, The largest solar flare in five years is racing toward Earth, threatening to unleash a torrent of charged particles that could disrupt power grids, GPS and airplane flights.

The sun erupted Tuesday evening, and the effects should start smacking Earth around 7 a.m. EST Thursday, according to forecasters at the federal government’s Space Weather Prediction Center. They say the flare is growing as it speeds outward from the sun.

“It’s hitting us right in the nose,” said Joe Kunches, a scientist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. He called it the sun’s version of “Super Tuesday.”

The solar storm is likely to last through Friday morning, but the region that erupted can still send more blasts our way, Kunches said. He said another set of active sunspots is ready to aim at Earth right after this.

But for now, scientists are waiting to see what happens Thursday when the charged particles hit Earth at 4 million mph.

NASA solar physicist Alex Young added, “It could give us a bit of a jolt.” But he said this is far from a super solar storm.

The storm is coming after an earlier and weaker solar eruption happened Sunday, Kunches said. This newer blast of particles will probably arrive slightly later than forecasters first thought.

That means for North America the “good” part of a solar storm – the one that creates more noticeable auroras or Northern Lights – will peak Thursday evening. Auroras could dip as far south as the Great Lakes states or lower, Kunches said, but a full moon will make them harder to see.

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