(VIDEO) Sun Shoots Largest Solar Flare In Years Toward Earth, Could Disrupt Communications
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WASHINGTON (CBSDC) - A solar storm sent straight from the sun is expected to rattle the Earth’s magnetic field Thursday.
A cloud of charged particles make up the largest solar flare in five years, which is on path for Earth at a mind-blowing pace, and could effect effect utility grids, airline flights, satellite networks and GPS services, especially in northern areas.
The blast could color the skies much farther from the poles than normal, starting with the auroras, which could be seen as far south as the Great Lakes states or lower, provided the full moon does not obstruct the view.
It is a blast of plasma spit from the sun at a speed nearing 4 million miles per hour Tuesday. Scientists say the storm is growing more powerful as it charges away from the sun, expanding like a giant soap bubble.
This has been 11 years in the making, a part of the normal cycle of the sun, although the centerpiece to our solar system has been relatively quiet. Astronomers say this storm could affect Earth far more adversley due to years of weak solar activity.
“It’s hitting us right in the nose,” said Joe Kunches, a scientist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Boulder, Colorado.
But this is not the worst we could see from the sun, as its cycle is supposed to peak sometime in 2013.
“This is a big sun spot group, particularly nasty,” says NASA solar physicist David Hathaway. “Things are really twisted up and mixed up. It keeps flaring.”
This particular storm is a part of a series of solar burts, coming after a much weaker burst which occurred Sunday, says Kunches.
NASA representatives say the first blast is traveling faster than 1300 miles per second, and the second at more than 1100 miles per second. The storm is already dwindling, but officials say Earth may experience the effects of another flare if the most recent bursts are directed toward our planet.