Top Story: January 25, 2012

Solar Storm Hits Earth

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Or so the headlines have read for the past few days. Here’s the skinny on the largest solar storm since 2003…

We’ve reported on solar storms before, especially NOAA’s and NASA’s urge to prepare and educate agencies and individuals as we head into the solar maximum.

When a solar flare and coronal mass ejection (CME) erupted from the Sun around 9:00 p.m. PDT on January 23, satellites captured the events in stunning detail. The Bad Astronomer offers a great video and description of the events and their power on his Discover blog.

These massive storms affect us here on Earth in many different ways, both beautiful and bad. The beautiful? Aurorae in stunning detail and farther reaches than usual. Universe Today offers two articles on aurora cause and effect; the Geophysical Institute offers a forecast and locations to view the displays.

The bad? Power surges and outages, satellite and radio communication interruptions, even exposure to radiation for astronauts. Luckily, as solar storms go, this recent one is only reaching G1 levels on NOAA’s storm scale—G5 is the highest.

Still, there were reports of a power surge in Norway yesterday and news of airline companies rerouting polar flights to avoid disruptions of aircraft communications.

With satellites such as NASA’s SDO and SOHO constantly gathering data on the Sun from every angle and NOAA interpreting the data for the general public, it appears that the news outlets were ready for anything. Score one for preparedness!

Image: SDO/NASA

comments

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