Solar blast heading Earth's way

2010-08-03 22:43

Pietermaritzburg - “Huge solar blast set to hit Earth” read a headline in Tuesday's London Daily Mirror while the Daily Telegraph cautioned “Nasa warns solar flares from ‘huge space storm’ will cause devastation.”

At Tuesday's Witness morning news conference we wondered if we would have any readers on Wednesday. If you are now happily reading this article that means the predicted devastation was greatly exaggerated.

According to the Telegraph it all began with Sunspot 1092, the size of the Earth, which, appropriately enough, popped up last Sunday with a huge flare which astronomers linked to an even larger eruption across the surface of the Sun.

“The explosion, called a coronal mass ejection, was aimed directly towards Earth, which then sent a ‘solar tsunami’ racing 149 million kilometres across space.”

This wave of “supercharged gas” was predicted to reach Earth on Tuesday evening and was expected to bump the magnetic shield protecting Earth. “Scientists have warned that a really big solar eruption could destroy satellites and wreck power and communications grids.”

The specialist website solarcycle24 was more sober in its assessment of the situation: “There will be a chance for minor geomagnetic storming and a small possibility of major geomagnetic storming at high latitudes.”

Which means that those free light shows that get put on by the universe for polar bears and penguins at the poles will increase their wattage and be seen by mere mortals without them having to put on their snow shoes.

Ahead of schedule

What seems to have got everybody excited about this particular solar flare is that it’s ahead of schedule. Solar activity takes place within an 11-year cycle and only at the peak of the cycle are there typically more sunspots and consequently an increase in solar flares.

The peak of the current cycle is not expected until 2013. In June, while everyone was watching the World Cup, Nasa issued a warning stating that their “scientists believed the Earth will be hit with unprecedented levels of magnetic energy from solar flares after the Sun wakes ‘from a deep slumber’ sometime around 2013”.

Well, it seems to have woken up a bit earlier than expected.

“I’m not sitting here quaking in my shoes waiting for something to happen,” said Jake Alletson of the local branch of the Astronomical Association of South Africa.

“Light from sun takes seven-and-a-half minutes to reach us from the sun. Radiation is not much slower so it would have got here by now.” In other words we wouldn’t be speaking to each other over the telephone if it was at significantly higher levels than usual.

“If there is a solar flare it will stimulate the light displays in the southern and northern latitudes,” he said.

“A major solar flare can put satellites out of action and cause havoc with communication systems.”

Looks like Sunspot 1092 has turned out to be just a pimple.

  • Drifter - 2010-08-04 14:10

    So, did it hit yet? Will we in SA be able to see anything "different" in the sky tonight?

    I should surely hope so.

  • stef - 2010-08-04 15:13

    Was that not the bright light that we witness in Pretoria last week?

  • MARK - 2010-08-04 15:13

    Guess my solar geyser will be the one to score big time???

  • Pant - 2010-08-04 16:34

    "Looks like Sunspot 1092 has turned out to be just a pimple." Bazinga?

  • GinaS - 2010-08-04 16:54

    It must have hit, we had a blackout in Gordonsbay from 20.30 to 21.45 .

  • Zion Pay - 2010-08-04 18:04

    After the first few lines I knew that we, the readers, are being taken for a ride. The suns energy is a form of radiation and moves at the speed of light. It does not dally, deciding which way to go: this way or that way or Earthway. Making a few orbits around the sun before it finally says good bye. Therefore, Drifter, sorry you lost out on this one because it is well on its way to, to, to well heavens knows.

  • simon - 2010-08-04 19:08

    Pretty sad that the AASA (!) should confuse photons with a solar flare or mass ejection. This ejection travels much slower than the speed of light, so to imply "seven and a half" minutes travel time is plain ridiculous.

  • Jaydee-Nigeria - 2010-08-04 20:54

    Interesting to know various topics outside of Politics, Malema etc...But is the end as we know it beginning...Oooh 2012.. Will be back in good old SA by then..Best country to be in..

  • kanapathy - 2010-08-04 20:58

    You can guess or dream about the 'Nature' but you can't predict what will happen by the Nature'. It is impossible.Any time, anything happen. It may be happened next second or after many billions years. Who knows? We created Gods but the nature created the universe.Nature is the God. So respect the nature.Do not spoil the nature or pollute the nature.See the beauty of the nature. Feel it and smell it.Smell the flowers and hug the babies.Love the neighbor.Don't worry about what happens next seconds. Enjoy this second. Yesterday's past, Tomorrow's unpredictable but Today is a 'Gift'.Give and take.You can't take with you a penny when you go back to your origin.Do not fear die.You are going to die once.It is real.You know your date of birth but you don't know the date of your dead.Bhagavad Gita says," * Why do you worry without cause? Whom do you fear without reason? Who can kill you? The soul is neither born, nor does it die. * Whatever happened, happened for the good; whatever is happening, is happening for the good; whatever will happen, will also happen for the good only. You need not have any regrets for the past. You need not worry for the future. The present is happening... * What did you lose that you cry about? What did you bring with you, which you think you have lost? What did you produce, which you think got destroyed? You did not bring anything - whatever you have, you received from here. Whatever you have given, you have given only here. Whatever you took, you took from God. Whatever you gave, you gave to him. You came empty handed, you will leave empty handed. What is yours today, belonged to someone else yesterday, and will belong to someone else the day after tomorrow. You are mistakenly enjoying the thought that this is yours. It is this false happiness that is the cause of your sorrows".

  • M.Segers - 2010-08-04 21:16

    Unlikely. It should have hit by now, as radiation from the sun (gamma) being an electromagnetic wave, travels at nearly the same speed as light. So if it was going to hit, it would have already. Not sure how well gamma penetrates Earth all the way to the other side though (seeing as it is night here now). Anyway, if it hits and it's big, you'll know because things like cellphones will stop working (no signal, no tv signal etc.) maybe even no electricity if it is big enuf.

  • The Pink Church Floyd - 2010-08-05 04:52

    I'm in woodend victoria Aus.
    Will we see or experience anything weird?
    I hope to see something exciting in tonights night sky
    Cheers Ange

  • Jacques Tredoux - 2010-08-05 08:39

    @Zion Pay, M. Segers
    It's a mass ejection, which cannot travel at the speed of light, and therefore takes a few hours to reach us as opposed to minutes. When our instruments saw the flare (photons), the event was already eight minutes old. It would probably have hit by Wednesday.

  • Ritous - 2010-08-05 08:58

    Are we dead

  • Amazed - 2010-08-05 09:14

    That sounds really horrifying! Glad I never heard about it before reading this article.

  • Dr Steve Brule - 2010-08-05 10:26

    It's the Rapture, soon we'll be rid of all the pesky wet-blanket Christians, and we can get wasted and have wild orgys while listening to Slayer, can't wait.

  • 007 - 2010-08-05 11:47

    Sounds more like what we heard 10 years ago, about the Y2K phenomenon. It seems we must be raedy for a thing of some sort every decade!

  • michael - 2010-08-05 11:53

    These are probably the same 'Lucky packet Scientists' who plead with us to disbelieve God and put our faith in the Big Bang Theory!!!

  • Simplesimon - 2010-08-05 12:25

    No what happened is that the photon blast struck the little known planet of woocares and bumped it right at us, but it struck the moon a glancing blow, veered off to the left of jupiter and in minutes disappeared into a vast blackhole in the top left hand corner of the univers. Then a loud voice was heard to say, "Bet you did not think I could make it hey"

  • @kanapathy - 2010-08-05 12:26

    Good comment, it got me thinking. . .
    Why should I worry about tomorrow while I suffer today?
    I'm gonna light a cig now, instead of torturing myself. Who said I was going to die from Cancer and not a car accident?
    I'm going to cash up all my savings, I'm buying myself hapiness now instead of worrying about my kids, who said I was going to live long enough to have them anyway. . .

    ggrrrr. .seriously.

  • AlphaOne - 2010-08-05 14:31

    The radiation can travel at about the speed of light, but the damage is caused by the Coronal Mass Ejection - and that can vary in speed.

  • croba - 2010-08-05 15:52

    The King Of Kings shall return with great power and Majesty. Make peace with your souls and follow the path of the righteous.
    Fast and pray that God forgive your sins.

    For these are the end of days.

  • weasel - 2010-08-05 18:20

    I love how you all act like you actually have a firm grasp on the science of this matter...

  • BEN - 2010-08-05 19:16

    Go onto youtube and search solar storms - these will be the cause of the END - 2012 is coming

  • AK - 2010-08-06 10:49

    An exciting scientific opportunity and not not space for weirdo rants and superstition.

  • frederick - 2010-10-04 10:58

    jip must be shortwave frequencies went dead recently the static on hf went way over normal-however helped with long-range cb ops-should such a such hit earth-what is the goverment here telling us?-what to do?who do we contact-etc?im concerned that here in Sa.not much interest is shown.

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