Washington(PTI): 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 sun erupts with one of the largest solar flares of this solar cycle in this NASA photo taken on March 6, 2012. Reuters/NASA”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.