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Massive solar storm hits Earth

Last Updated: Friday, March 9, 2012 - 00:20

Washington: A monster solar storm of charged
particles that erupted two days ago today hit the Earth, which
could disrupt power grids, satellite navigation and flights.

The storm, which scientists claimed to be the largest in
five years, was triggered by a pair of solar flares early
Tuesday and is growing like a giant soap bubble.

"The coronal mass ejection (CME) associated with the R3
(Strong) Radio Blackout event from 0024 UTC March 7 (7:24 p.m.
EST March 6) arrived at ACE at 1045 GMT today (15:15 IST),"
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said.

"So far the orientation of the magnetic field has been
opposite of what is needed to cause the strongest storming.
As the event progresses, that field will continue to change,"
NOAA tweeted.
Earlier, Joseph Kunches, a space weather scientist at the
NOAA said, "Space weather has gotten very interesting over the
last 24 hours."

"This was quite the Super Tuesday -- you bet," Kunches
was quoted as saying by SPACE.com.

Several NASA spacecraft caught videos of the solar flare
as it hurled a wave of solar plasma and charged particles,
called a coronal mass ejection (CME), into space.

Early predictions estimate that the CME will reach Earth
at 5pm (India time) today, with the effects likely lasting for
24 hours, and possibly lingering into Friday, Kunches said.
The solar eruptions occurred when the Sun let loose two
huge X-class solar flares that ranked among the strongest type
of Sun storms. And the biggest of those flares registered as
an "X5.4 class" solar storm on the space weather scale and the
CME from this flare is the one that could disrupt satellite
operations, Kunches said.
This heightened geomagnetic activity and increase in
solar radiation could impact satellites in space and power
grids on the ground. Some high-precision GPS users could also
be affected, he said.

"There is the potential for induced currents in power
grids. Power grid operators have all been alerted. It could
start to cause some unwanted induced currents," he added.

Airplanes that fly over the polar caps, he said, may also
experience communications problems issues during this time and
some airliners have already taken precautionary actions.

PTI

First Published: Thursday, March 8, 2012 - 08:23

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