Strong space storm hits Earth

2012-03-08 16:14

Washington - A strong geomagnetic storm hit Earth early on Thursday, but the planet's magnetic field appeared to be absorbing the shock and it was unlikely to reach severe levels, US experts said.

The storm was nevertheless expected to be the strongest in five years and has the potential to disrupt global positioning systems, airline flights, satellites and power grids, Nasa and other US agencies warned.

The leading edge of the coronal mass ejection - a burst of hot plasma and charged particles - that erupted from the Sun early on Wednesday reached Earth on Thursday at 10:45 GMT, said an update from the national oceanic and atmospheric administration (NOAA).

Predictions that the storm would reach a level three on a scale of five, or a "strong" level of solar radiation and geomagnetic storming, continue to "look justified," the NOAA said.

"So far the orientation of the magnetic field has been opposite of what is needed to cause the strongest storming. As the event progresses, that field will continue to change."

Nasa had forecast late on Wednesday that the storm could reach "severe" levels, and its effects were expected to last through Friday.

The storm is likely "the strongest one since December 2006", NOAA scientist Joseph Kunches said on Wednesday.

Astronauts aboard the International Space Station were not expected to be affected by the radiation storm, Nasa said.

Experts on space weather were to give an update on the storm's effects later Thursday.

Geomagnetic and radiation storms are growing more frequent as the Sun leaves its solar minimum period and moves into a solar maximum over the coming years, but people are generally protected by Earth's magnetic field.

However, some experts are concerned that because the world is more reliant on GPS and satellite technology now than it was during the last solar maximum, more disruptions to modern life are likely.

  • Lynda - 2012-03-08 16:22

    Ah so that's what jumbled up the MNet last night and I thought it was just a little old cyclone....who knew???

      Roy - 2012-03-08 17:00

      Don't believe it was the problem. I think MNet just went "down" and will use the space storm to cover their fault

  • gpoltini - 2012-03-08 16:24

    I need more simpler language to understand this. are you guys speaking english.

      DuToitCoetzee - 2012-03-08 17:39

      Ok. Sun tan oils will not work. Get yourself a good bottle of....what you may drink.....and clean underpants.( The none drinkers, like me, must just go early to bed.) ...or you will wake up with dirty underpants and a headache.....or you will not wake up. Either way, enjoy!!!! :))

      Michele - 2012-03-09 08:27

      Outcomes based education system at work :)

  • E=MC2 - 2012-03-08 16:25

    as opposed to the story that was warning of GPS's not working etc etc... MEDIA HYPE STRIKES AGAIN

  • goyougoodthing - 2012-03-08 17:47

    How can this be? The sun can't do this unless god commands it... and no one's seen him for ages.

  • E - 2012-03-08 17:56

    Does anyone have a problem "believing" this scientifically-observed event? Or is it unChristian ... :P

      abrie.burger - 2012-03-08 22:18

      Nobody saw this event. So it didn't happen.

  • Greg - 2012-03-08 18:35

    Sun DOOM FTW!

  • Kevin.Ellianda - 2012-03-09 06:47

    This is only the start, expect worse to come. People are to use to thinking nothing will happen to earth apart from normal natural disasters from earth. There is a whole universe out there with billions of potential threats. What is the changes that we can dodge the ball all the time. Wake up people, do your research and stop believing everything you read in media or governments tell you.

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