Solar flare to give Earth a glancing blow

2012-05-14 10:20

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. 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.

  • mari.brits - 2012-05-14 10:49

    whoah!.... itll be like the days before the existence of cellphones....

  • malwandlalpascal.chauke - 2012-05-14 10:52

    Shud we be scared or somethng,

      ludlowdj - 2012-05-14 11:03

      No need to be scared, the impact may just be that we no longer have to use cell phones or computer systems as the networks may go down for a few hours to permanently. Keep in mind that a large enough strike will take down satellites permanently leaving us without global comms for anything up to several years........sounds so nice and peaceful.

      daryltt - 2012-05-14 11:12

      "No need to be scared, the impact may just be that we no longer have to use cell phones..." Whaaaaaat?????!!! ... So those people that sit on their phones at restaurants will actually have to talk to people in front of them?? (And I will have to get a physical newspaper)

      K9LAKHAN - 2012-05-14 11:17

      Yes - Groupkajan research had shown that the chemical structure of the brain does change at this time. ( Hence more violent behavior and more road accidents are prone ) - but now you aware, you can restrain yourself from displaying anger during this time.

      mihaip007 - 2012-05-14 12:19

      In general the satelites going down sounds like a small issue, but when you consider air-traffic comms and the likes you suddenly realise that should it fail to such a degree and you had to be in the air, you most likely may experience the discomfort of crashing to the ground. Also the problem with our transformers (sighing when thinking of our wonderful Eskom maintenance admins), should they be affected, you may not even have normal water in the taps. Google it :)

      Pienaar - 2012-05-14 12:52

      Yes you are toast!!

  • JNaMolefe - 2012-05-14 11:04

    Today? Again?

  • Ryan - 2012-05-14 11:21

    For those that never saw the solar display which happened a few months ago:

  • adrian.boulle - 2012-05-14 12:33

    Is this just another silly prediction? They said the same a few months back!

      Eternity - 2012-05-14 13:37

      This might seem like a regular occurrence and you would be right. Solar flares and CMEs can happen many times a day in a solar cycle maximum (which we are heading towards) but CMEs that are powerful and direct enough to affect us on earth are not so common. This flare was only an M class flare - these are capable of causing some communication problems and damaging satellite systems. The X class flares are the real bad boys. In 1959 the biggest solar flare to directly hit earth was recorded. It caused damage to telegraph systems here on earth and is know as the Carrington event. If a solar flare of the same size as the one from the Carrington event occurred today to would cause havoc with our electrical and communication systems which could take many years to repair. With the introduction of NASA SDO project monitoring the sun we now have a lot of data on the suns activity, which I personally think is a good thing as the power of solar flares can be catastrophic.

  • alexander.lombard - 2012-05-14 14:03

    Who will be the first to place a comment on this page after 16:00. Lets see.

      Stille - 2012-05-14 16:03


  • Coenraad - 2012-05-14 14:55

    Get the SPF 1,000,000, vicar! Frying eggs outside will never be as fun or as dangerous again...

  • Jill - 2012-05-14 16:07

    Beam me up Scotty!!

  • Brilliantx - 2012-05-14 16:15

    Media black out? yerrr, how would they campaign???-It's gona take a lot more chicken dances to win one vote! I'm sure she's getting more members to practice.

  • Zion - 2012-05-15 11:23

    When it comes (around the mountain) keep your arms against your body to minimise the target because it will be coming in at 500km/sec and that is faster than your golfie.

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