ImageEnd Times News Update
Sign: Signs in the Sun (solar flare new)
Scripture: Luke 21:25
News Source: My Way News
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Biggest solar storm in years races toward Earth

Mar 7, 8:33 PM (ET)
By SETH BORENSTEIN

WASHINGTON (AP) – Earth’s magnetic field is about to be shaken like a
snow globe by the largest solar storm in five years.

After hurtling through space for a day and a half, a massive cloud of
charged particles is due to arrive early Thursday and could disrupt
utility grids, airline flights, satellite networks and GPS services,
especially in northern areas. But the same blast could also paint
colorful auroras farther from the poles than normal.

Scientists say the storm, which started with a massive solar flare
earlier in the week, is growing as it races outward from the sun,
expanding like a giant soap bubble. When it strikes early Thursday,
the particles will be moving at 4 million mph.

“It’s hitting us right in the nose,” said Joe Kunches, a scientist for
the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Boulder, Colo.

Astronomers say the sun has been relatively quiet for some time. And
this storm, while strong, may seem fiercer because Earth has been
lulled by several years of weak solar activity.

The storm is part of the sun’s normal 11-year cycle, which is supposed
to reach peak storminess next year. Solar storms don’t harm people,
but they do disrupt technology. And during the last peak around 2002,
experts learned that GPS was vulnerable to solar outbursts.

Because new technology has flourished since then, scientists could
discover that some new systems are also at risk, said Jeffrey Hughes,
director of the Center for Integrated Space Weather Modeling at Boston
University.

A decade ago, this type of solar storm happened a couple of times a
year, Hughes said.

“This is a good-size event, but not the extreme type,” said Bill
Murtagh, program coordinator for the federal government’s Space
Weather Prediction Center.

The sun erupted Tuesday evening, and the most noticeable effects
should arrive here between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. EST Thursday, according
to forecasters at the space weather center. The effects could linger
through Friday morning.

The region of the sun 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.

“This is a big sun spot group, particularly nasty,” NASA solar
physicist David Hathaway said. “Things are really twisted up and mixed
up. It keeps flaring.”

Storms like this start with sun spots, Hathaway said.

Then comes an initial solar flare of subatomic particles that resemble
a filament coming out of the sun. That part already hit Earth only
minutes after the initial burst, bringing radio and radiation
disturbances.

After that comes the coronal mass ejection, which looks like a growing
bubble and takes a couple days to reach Earth. It’s that ejection that
could cause magnetic disruptions Thursday.

“It could give us a bit of a jolt,” NASA solar physicist Alex Young said.

The storm follows an earlier, weaker solar eruption that happened
Sunday, Kunches said.

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.

Auroras are “probably the treat we get when the sun erupts,” Kunches said.

Still, the potential for problems is widespread. Solar storms have
three ways they can disrupt technology on Earth: with magnetic, radio
and radiation emissions. This is an unusual situation, when all three
types of solar storm disruptions are likely to be strong, Kunches
said. That makes it the strongest overall since December 2006.

That means “a whole host of things” could follow, he said.

North American utilities are monitoring for abnormalities on their
grids and have contingency plans, said Kimberly Mielcarek, spokeswoman
for the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, a consortium
of electricity grid operators.

In 1989, a strong solar storm knocked out the power grid in Quebec,
causing 6 million people to lose power.

Solar storms can also make global positioning systems less accurate
and cause GPS outages.

The storm could trigger communication problems and additional
radiation around the north and south poles – a risk that will probably
force airlines to reroute flights. Some already have done so, Kunches
said.

Satellites could be affected, too. NASA spokesman Rob Navias said the
space agency isn’t taking any extra precautions to protect astronauts
on the International Space Station from added radiation.

Online:

NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center: http://www.swpc.noaa.gov

NASA on solar flare:
http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/sunearth/news/News030712-X1.5.html

Source: My Way News
URL:
http://apnews.myway.com/article/20120308/D9TC0ON80.html

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