2014-09-11 by Diana fka Desi Foxx
The vast plasma cloud could cause disruption to power grids, radio and satellite communications
A massive explosion on the Sun has sent a solar storm heading straight for Earth, experts have said, which may disrupt communications equipment and power grids when it strikes.
The solar flare registered in the “extreme” band on the scale used by forecasters – a magnitude not seen by observers for a number of years.
Originating from a collection of sunspots right in the centre of our nearest star, it poses a direct threat because “it’s pointed right at us”, according to experts at the Space Weather Prediction Center in Boulder, Colorado.
Observed late on Wednesday, the storm is moving towards Earth at a medium-to-fast rate of about 2.5 million mph (4.02 million kph), said forecaster Tom Berger, meaning the soonest it can arrive is early on Friday (US time).
“There’s been a giant magnetic explosion on the sun,” Berger said. “Because it’s pointed right at us, we’ll at least catch some of the cloud” of highly energized and magnetized plasma that can disrupt Earth’s magnetic sphere, which sometimes leads to temporary power grid problems,
Berger nonetheless added that the worst effects of the storm are likely to narrowly miss Earth, passing over the North Pole.
It could still cause disturbances in satellite and radio transmissions, though, and will have a significant impact on Earth’s magnetic field.
While a warning has been issued, Berger said “we’re not scared of this one”, and issued a reminder that solar storms don’t directly harm people.
Video: Solar flares
There is a positive aspect to the storm’s arrival, despite the communications concerns.
From Friday morning and over the weekend, we can expect the displays of the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) to be particularly bright and colourful, and visible unusually far south.