Flights rerouted as solar storm hits

2012-01-25 07:20

Washington - Solar radiation from a massive sun storm - the largest in nearly a decade - collided with the Earth's atmosphere on Tuesday, prompting an airline to reroute flights and sky watchers to seek out spectacular light displays.

US carrier Delta Air Lines said it had adjusted flight routes for transpolar journeys between Asia and the US to avoid problems caused by the radiation storm, a spokesperson said.

Nasa confirmed the coronal mass ejection (CME) began colliding with Earth's magnetic field around 10:00 (15:00 GMT) on Tuesday, adding that the storm was now being considered the largest since October 2003.

Radiation storms are not harmful to humans, on Earth at least, according to the US space agency. They can, however, affect satellite operations and short wave radio.

The storm's radiation, likely to continue bombarding Earth's atmosphere through Wednesday, and its possible disruption to satellite communications in the polar regions prompted the flight rerouting, airline officials said.

Unusual intensity

Atlanta-based Delta, the world's second largest airline, said "a handful" of routes had their journey adjusted "based on potential impact" of the solar storm on communications equipment, said spokesperson Anthony Black.

Routes from Hong Kong, Shanghai and Seoul took a more southerly route after the solar flare erupted on Sunday.

The airline said it would continue to monitor solar activity before return flights to their normal routes.

Due to the unusual intensity of the photons raining on Earth, the spectacular aurora borealis - the stunning "Northern Lights" display - which is often seen closer to the Arctic pole at this time of year, has been seen as far south as Scotland and northern England, and at lower latitudes in the US.

The event started late on Sunday with a moderate-sized solar flare that erupted right near the centre of the Sun, said Doug Biesecker, a physicist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Space Weather Prediction Centre.

"The flare itself was nothing spectacular, but it sent off a very fast coronal mass ejection travelling four million miles per hour [6.4 million kilometres per hour]," he said.

Space weather watchers said the best aurora sightings are normally around 00:00 local time.

Rob Stammes, who runs the Lofoten Polar Light Centre in Lofoten, Norway said the CME's arrival had produced a surge in ground currents outside his laboratory.

"This could be a happy day for many aurora watchers," he told aurora tracker website

  • Lyndatjie - 2012-01-25 07:41

    I'm wearing my colander hat for sure.... :)

      padayachee - 2012-01-25 07:52


      sandra.inja - 2012-01-25 08:29

      had the same idea

  • David - 2012-01-25 08:09

    possibly a real piece of climate change - not al gore's type

      StarStruck - 2012-01-25 08:27

      I don't think this contributes to climate change but if strange things outside our atmosphere where to happen more frequently then I would guess that Al Gore could run for president again - seeing as he is all about getting a message across even if it is total bullsh#t.

  • Luke - 2012-01-25 08:53

    Coronal Mass Ejection... That just sounds dirty :D

  • Xavier7034 - 2012-01-25 08:53

    Interesting behaviour by the Sun, but extraordinary behaviour by some humans - giving a thumbs down on completely innocuous comments....what for?

  • aruan999 - 2012-01-25 09:08

    These flares happen regularly. It was just a bit stronger one..surface explotion. It is predicted that these happenings will strike during 2012, that is why people are now so sensitive about it. I guess more are to follow. It cannot be predicted as to when and where, of course. Other types of intense physical happenings will be ordinary during this year. Its part of the crossover to a New Dispensation (5th Dimension) for Earth and earth-humans.

      Peter - 2012-01-25 09:12

      Dee doo dee doo dee doo.....

      John - 2012-01-25 11:51

      E.T. Phone home....

  • Patsy - 2012-01-25 09:51

    Wow! Just as well that new bill hasn't come in or you'd probably be fined R5m for telling us what is actually going on!!! Funnily enough I haven't noticed anyone running around in a panic!!

      aruan999 - 2012-01-25 10:12

      i do'nt think the New Bill wants to scare off facts, but bogus predictions. Is MASS PANIC a possible aim of the Bill? But then, should there be a Bill (if such!) that prohibits facts? But then again, predicting weather is not facts, so is possible, cataclismic events. I do get the idea though that 2012 will bring/see events of great proportion, bringing earth-humans in readiness to the birth (21:12:12) of the New Earth en New Man.

      E - 2012-01-25 15:11

      Sun flares all the time, no big deal. Earth's magnetic fields protect us, except for pretty light effects near poles. Let's be more serious about real issues, like fixing what's broke & not dumping more rubbish, and not imagined ones. aruan, we'll talk again on 22 Dec, ok?

  • John - 2012-01-25 11:54

    Don't fly that high...... Stay below 80 Million Km level...

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