Solar flare to give Earth a glancing blow

2012-05-14 10:20
Solar activity is captured by the Nasa Solar Dynamics Observatory. (Nasa, SDO)

Solar activity is captured by the Nasa Solar Dynamics Observatory. (Nasa, SDO)

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Cape Town - A solar coronal mass ejection (CME) is travelling from the Sun at 1 000km per second and will give the Earth a glancing blow.

Spaceweather.com reported the CME will arrive in Earth's vicinity at about 14:00 GMT (16:00 SA time) on Monday and while no harm toward humans is expected, there is a risk that satellites may be adversely affected.

According to the South African National Space Agency (Sansa), the solar wind speed is high at between 500km/s and 550km/s.

CMEs are classified into three categories: 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.

CMEs that erupt from higher latitudes on the Sun have a lower chance of directly hitting the Earth because they are further away from the plane of the ecliptic.

A direct hit could have devastating consequences for global communications and electrical grids.

The Sun goes through a solar cycle about every 11 years where an increased activity on the surface is observed.
 
Read more on:    sansa  |  solar flares  |  astronomy

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