Solar Flare Collides With Earth Causing Disruptions
January 25, 2012

Solar Flare Collides With Earth Causing Disruptions

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A solar flare from Sunday collided with Earth on Tuesday, becoming the largest solar radiation storm since October 2003.

NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center has categorized the storm as "strong," or an S3, storm.  These storms can affect satellite operations and short wave radio propagation, but do not cause any harm to humans on Earth.

Some polar flights, including a dozen Delta Air Lines planes, were re-routed to avoid communications lapses and exposing pilots and passengers to excessive radiation.  The flight patterns of these planes flew over the North Pole.

"Many airliners have been avoiding the North Pole routes because they are more exposed to the proton storm, which disrupts High Frequency radio communications," Doug Beisecker, a space weather specialist at NOAA, said in a statement.

Some utility companies were forced to boost power to compensate for electrical interference.  The storm also interfered with some satellite transmissions.

"This radiation storm is long lasting. These effects don't come around very often, but when they do you have to live with them for several days," Douglas Beisecker who monitored the solar storm from the government's Space Weather Prediction Center in Boulder, Colo., told CBS News.

The storm came from an eruption on the sun on January 22 of am M8.7 class flare.  This coronal mass ejection (CME) was moving at about 1,400 miles per second.

Scientists have been expecting solar eruptions to become more intense as the sun enters a more active phase.  They believe its 11-year cycle will peak in 2013.


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