Massive solar storm could affect DStv and internet

Johannesburg - The strongest solar storm in a decade could interfere with South Africans watching DStv, or using mobile phones, GPS or the internet on Friday. 

The South African National Space Agency (Sansa) warned that two monster solar flares unleashed from the Sun of Wednesday, were accompanied by a coronal mass ejection (CME) which travelled towards Earth at speeds over 1200 km per second.

According to The Space Weather Prediction Centre in the US, CME's are explosions of magnetic field and plasma from the Sun.

They often follow solar flares, and can cause geomagnetic storms.  

Sansa said the CME impacted the Earth's magnetic field early on Friday morning.  

“The impact of the CME has sparked a strong geomagnetic storm on Earth which can have effects on HF (High Frequency) communication, power grids, navigation systems such as GPS, and communication systems such as DStv, mobile phones and internet connectivity. Moderate disturbances are expected at this stage,” Sansa spokesperson Catherine Webster said in a statement.

Sansa said the initial burst of radiation from the solar flares was so intense, it caused high frequency radio blackouts across the daytime side of Earth affecting HF communication over Africa, Europe and the Atlantic Ocean.

Solar flares are giant explosions on the surface of the Sun that occur when twisted magnetic field lines suddenly snap and release massive amounts of electromagnetic energy.


Footage of the Sept. 7 X1.3 solar flare captured by the Solar Dynamics Observatory in extreme ultraviolet light Credit: NASA/GSFC/SDO

They do not pose any direct danger to humans, however. 

“The impact of the space weather storm will not harm humans and other life forms on Earth as we are protected by the Earth's magnetic field,” Sansa said.

Sansa said it was monitoring the space storm closely with the storm expected to last for the next 24 hours, or until Saturday morning. 

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