July 14, 2012
Solar Storm Expected To Reach Earth Saturday Morning
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redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe OnlineA solar storm, scheduled to arrive Saturday morning and last through the end of the day on Sunday, is expected to put on a show for sky-gazers but should otherwise have little to no effect, according to scientists.
According to the Associated Press (AP), the storm began on Thursday, as the sun unleashed a powerful solar flare -- the sixth recorded by scientists this year.
The NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center in Boulder, Colorado said that the storm was scheduled to arrive early Saturday morning (some sources said it would reach Earth between 5am and 9am Eastern) and would last through the end of the day on Sunday.
CNN's Melissa Abbey noted in a Friday blog entry that the cloud of highly charged particles, known as a coronal mass ejection, was rated by NOAA at the lower end of their five-point severity scale, as either a G1 or a G2.
That means that the mass, which was travelling a reported 3 million miles per hour, could be "mildly problematic for high-latitude power systems or high-frequency radios," Abbey explained.
Scientists at the Space Weather Prediction Center told the AP that they had reached out to power grid operators, airlines, and other parties who could be impacted by the solar storm.
These events have been known to cause blackouts, GPS signal and radio communication disruption, damage to satellites, and additional radiation that can force flights to be re-routed, thought the NOAA's Joe Kunches told reporters at the wire service that they "don't see any ill effects to any systems" resulting from the storm.
What people could expect, experts say, is a colorful show in the sky thanks to the auroras sometimes generated by solar storms. Kunches told CNN.com that the auroras from this weekend's storm could be visible Saturday evening along the border between the US and Canada, as well as in the northern parts of Europe.
Kunches said that the auroras would likely be brighter and closer to the equator than normal, and NASA Heliophysicist Robert Leamon told Abbey that the most notable lights would appear "on the night side of the Earth" upon its arrival.
The solar activity is part of the sun's regular 11-year cycle of activity, and additional storms are possible throughout the year, according to various reports. The current cycle is expected to reach its peak sometime next year or in early 2014, experts have predicted.