March 7, 2012
Massive CMEs Heading Towards Earth
NASA said on Wednesday that two Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs) are now traveling faster than 1,300 miles per second, on track towards Earth.
NASA's Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO) and the Solar Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) caught the CMEs as they took-off from the sun.
The space agency said the first CME, which is traveling at about 1,300 miles per second, will reach Earth on the morning of March 8.
This CME could result in a "severe geomagnetic storm", causing aurora at low altitudes, and possible disruptions to high frequency radio communication, global positioning systems (GPS), and power grids, according to NASA.
"It's hitting us right in the nose," Joe Kunches, a scientist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, told The Associated Press.
The part of the solar storm that will create more noticeable auroras will peak Thursday evening, according to NOAA.
The auroras could dip as far south as the Great Lakes states, but a full moon will make them harder to see.
Kunches said the timing and speed of the storm will determine whether it affects power grids. A solar storm in 1989 knocked out the power grid in Quebec, leaving 6 million people without power.
Astronauts aboard the International Space Station will not be taking any extra precautions, according to NASA spokesman Rob Navias.
Currently, NASA is rating the solar radiation storm at an S3 on a scale that goes up to S5.
The last large solar flare recorded was on August 9, 2011, charting in at an X6.9 flare. The larger flare of the two that took place this week was clocked at X5.4.
On the Net:
- Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO)
- Solar Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO)
- Space Weather Prediction Center