No danger, but solar flare watched closely

2012-01-24 16:57
Johannesburg - Space enthusiasts kept watch on Tuesday for the possible effects on earth of a solar flare.

According to the SA National Space Agency (Sansa) a large sunspot erupted at 05:59 on Monday and a coronal mass ejection (CME), a cloud of solar plasma, was thrown in earth's direction.

The CME was a fast event with estimated speeds ranging from 1 400 km/second to 2 200 km/second, according to Sansa.

If it maintained this velocity and reached the ACE satellite on Tuesday, it would affect the earth's ionosphere and geomagnetic field 18 minutes later.

The satellite monitors solar wind, interplanetary magnetic fields and higher energy particles accelerated by the sun.

This could interrupt radio communications, affect satellites, and stress power distribution transformers.

The ionosphere is a layer of the earth's atmosphere crucial for signals transmitted to satellites, or from an earth transmitter to an earth receiver.

According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, solar flares and CMEs are not a danger to humans.

The planet's magnetic field (magnetosphere) and atmosphere deflect and absorb the solar energy and particles.

Sun storms could pose risks to astronauts though, and could upset the electronics and transmissions on science, military, and communications satellites.

They could also provide a small dose of radiation to passengers on high-latitude flights, and provoke auroras (northern and southern lights).

People using social media were quick to comment.

"Right about now we're getting hit by a solar flare, I'm told. No wonder my GPS has just directed me right into Emmarentia Dam," Riaan Grobler wrote on Facebook.

Read more on:    sansa  |  solar flares  |  astronomy

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