Solar flare to cause minimal disturbance

2012-07-13 11:23
This false-colour image shows a solar flare erupting from the sun. (Nasa, AP)

This false-colour image shows a solar flare erupting from the sun. (Nasa, AP)

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Cape Town - A huge solar flare has erupted on Thursday but experts believe that it will cause minor disruption on Earth.

An X-flare erupted from sunspot AR 1520 and the accompanying coronal mass ejection (CME) is heading toward Earth at 1 000km per second, experts from the South African Space Weather Agency (Sansa) told News24.

"The impact of the CME could spark a moderate geomagnetic storm and will continue to be monitored," Sansa said.

Scientists recognise three major categories of solar flares. X-class flares are big and are major events that can trigger planet-wide radio blackouts.

M-class flares are medium-sized; they can cause brief radio blackouts that affect Earth's polar regions. C-class flares are small with few noticeable consequences here on Earth.

In the polar regions people could observe spectacular auroras, that may even be visible at lower latitudes.

The CME may have a particular impact in South Africa because of the South Atlantic Anomaly where the Earth's magnetic field is weakest.

The CME will not harm people because of the Earth's magnetic field, but it may have an effect on GPS, cellphones and DSTV when it arrives on Saturday.

"Only minor disturbances are expected at this stage and may last the duration of the weekend," Sansa said.

The sun goes through a solar cycle about every 11 years where an increased activity on the surface is observed.

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This YouTube video shows a solar eruption:

Read more on:    sansa  |  solar flares  |  science

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