Giant blast of plasma headed toward Earth!
A massive solar storm arrived at Earth early Thursday, and is expected to shake the globe's magnetic field until early Friday morning, while expanding the Northern Lights.
A giant blast of plasma spat from the sun at as much as 4 million miles per hour Tuesday -- by some measures the largest solar event since late 2006 -- and it could lead to serious issues on Earth, forcing some planes to reroute, knocking out power grids, and blacking out radios.
The sun unleashed the cosmic double whammy late March 6, erupting with two major flares to cap a busy day of powerful solar storms, Space.com reported. One of the flares is the most powerful solar eruption so far this year.
“Super Tuesday? You bet!” joked Joseph Kunches, a space weather scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
The storm grew as it raced outward from the sun, expanding like a giant soap bubble, scientists said. Its initial effects arrived at the Earth early Thursday morning at about 5:45 a.m. EST, according to NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center.
"It's hitting us right in the nose," Kunches had predicted Wednesday. The blow appears to be more of a a glancing one that will interact with the Earth's magnetic field throughout the day.
Both of the huge flares ranked as X-class storms, the strongest type of solar flares the sun can have. They followed several weaker, but still powerful, sun storms on Tuesday and came just days after another major solar flare on Sunday night.
“By some measures this is the strongest one since December of 2006,” Kunches explained. Solar activity has already led to an R3 level radio blackout on NOAA’s space weather scale, he explained, a midstrength event on a scale that reaches to R5. Such effects are caused by X-ray emissions from the sun.
The bigger effects will hit the planet over the next 24 hours.
Read more: Sun fires off 2 huge solar flares, could impact weather on Earth | Fox News
No so bad after all .....
Our high-tech world seems to have weathered a solar storm that was still showing signs of life late Thursday.
While some experts think the threat from the solar storm passed by earlier in the day, space weather forecasters said it's still too early to relax because the storm's effects could continue through Friday morning.
Around midnight EST Thursday, the storm reached what forecasters called a "moderate level."
"We've seen a bit of an increase in mag (magnetic field) geo-activity, relative to what we saw earlier today," said Norm Cohen, a senior space weather forecaster at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Space Weather Prediction Center in Boulder, Colo.
He wasn't aware of any significant effects to key electrical or technological systems, but said there was a two-hour blackout of high frequency radio communications -- affecting mainly ham radio operations -- stretching from eastern Africa to eastern Australia.
Hours earlier, NASA solar physicist David Hathaway said that it appeared that the storm was over, based on a drop in a key magnetic reading.
But Doug Biesecker -- also with the weather prediction center, which forecasts solar storms -- pointed to an increase in a different magnetic field measurement.
Scientists do agree that other storms may be lining up in the cosmic shooting gallery in the coming, days month and year.
The storm, which started with a solar flare Tuesday evening, caused a stir Wednesday because forecasts were for a strong storm with the potential to knock electrical grids offline, mess with GPS and harm satellites. It even forced airlines to reroute a few flights on Thursday.
Read more: Solar storm not nearly as bad as could have been | Fox News
Uhh ohh ... not over yet...
The sun is continuing its active streak this week, firing off another solar flare late Thursday (March 8) from the same region that produced this week's strong solar storm.
An M6.3-class solar flare — a mid-range eruption — spewed from the surface of the sun last night at 10:53 p.m. EST (0353 GMT March 9), according to an alert from the Space Weather Prediction Center, a joint operation by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Weather Service.
Space weather scientists use five categories — A, B, C, M and X — to rank solar flares based on their strength and severity. A-class flares are the weakest types of sun storms, while X-class eruptions are the most powerful.
The M-class solar flare exploded from the same sunspot region, called AR1429, which has been particularly active all week. This dynamic region has already unleashed three strong X-class solar flares. On Tuesday (March 6), two powerful X-class eruptions triggered the strongest solar storm in eight years, Bob Rutledge, head of NOAA's Space Weather Forecast Office, told reporters today (March 9).
"When you take overall intensity and length — how long it persisted — we're confident in saying by some measures, it was the strongest storm we've seen since November 2004," Rutledge said. "That doesn't mean that between November 2004 and today we haven't had brief periods that were more intense. If you look at the storm overall for length and strength, it was the strongest storm since November 2004." [Photos: Solar Flare Eruptions of 2012]
A fast-moving cloud of solar plasma and charged particles, called a coronal mass ejection, was triggered by the Tuesday X-class eruptions, and this wave of energetic particles hit Earth yesterday. The resulting geomagnetic storm was weaker than expected, but solar physicists say there is a potential for conditions to escalate.
Read more: Strong solar flares still shooting out from active spot on sun | Fox News
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