Science News

Fears of disruption as big solar storm strikes the Earth

Currently, the earth is being showered by a storm of charged particles from the sun. This storm is the largest in five years and it could disrupt power grids, satellite navigation and plane routes. The storm which have been caused by a pair of solar flares earlier this week, will bombard the earth’s magnetic field thoughout Thursday. The Sun’s activity rises and falls through an 11-year cycle, and has in recent months been seen to launch more of the solar flares that are causing the current storm. The cycle is due to peak in 2013. The flares have resulted in what is known as a coronal mass ejection, “the technical term for what is really just a big ball of gas travelling at 2,000 kilometres per second”, according to Doug Biesiecker from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa). The incoming cloud of charged particles could affect satellites and will launch a geomagnetic storm in the Earth’s protective magnetic field, Mr Beisiecker told the BBC. Dr Craig Underwood, from the Surrey Space Centre, UK, said: “The event is the largest for several years, but it is not in the most severe class. We may expect more storms of this kind and perhaps much more severe ones in the next year or so as we approach solar maximum.”Such events act as a wake-up call as to how our modern western lifestyles are utterly dependent on space technology and national power grid infrastructure.”

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-17295337

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