Largest Solar Flare in 5 Years En Route – Expected to Arrive at 7:00 AM EST Thursday, March 8, 2012

The largest solar flare in five years is racing toward Earth, threatening to unleash a torrent of charged particles that could disrupt power grids, GPS and airplane flights. The sun erupted Tuesday evening, and the effects should start smacking Earth around 7 a.m. EST Thursday (1200 GMT), according to forecasters at the federal government’s Space Weather Prediction Center. They say the flare is growing as it speeds outward from the sun.

“It’s hitting us right in the nose,” said Joe Kunches, a scientist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The solar storm is likely to last through Friday morning, but the region that erupted can still send more blasts toward Earth, Kunches said. He said another set of active sunspots is ready to aim at Earth right after this.

But for now, scientists are waiting to see what happens Thursday when the charged particles hit Earth at 4 million mph. NASA solar physicist Alex Young added, “It could give us a bit of a jolt.” But he said this is far from a super solar storm.

The storm is coming after an earlier and weaker solar eruption happened Sunday, Kunches said. This newer blast of particles probably will arrive slightly later than forecasters first thought.

That means for North America the “good” part of a solar storm, when it creates more noticeable auroras or Northern Lights, will peak Thursday evening and Friday morning. Auroras could dip as far south in North America as the Great Lakes, along the Canadian border, or lower, Kunches said, but a full moon will make them harder to see.

One thought on “Largest Solar Flare in 5 Years En Route – Expected to Arrive at 7:00 AM EST Thursday, March 8, 2012

  1. Here’s the latest on the solar flare from the Space Weather Prediction Center: The coronal mass ejection (CME) associated with the R3 (Strong) Radio Blackout event from 0024 UTC March 7 continues to minimally affect the Earth and G1 (Minor) storming levels have been observed since the onset at 1105 UTC March 8 (6:05 a.m. EST March 8). Although the magnetic field strength of this CME has been fairly high, it hasn’t been of the orientation needed to cause strong geomagnetic storming. The disturbance is not over, but storming reaching the G3 (Strong) levels as initially predicted is becoming less likely as influence from this CME wanes. Solar Radiation Storm levels have just decreased below the S3 (Strong) threshold and are expected to continue their slow decay over the next several days, barring additional activity. Region 1429, the source of these events, is near the center of the solar disk and continues to have the potential for significant activity. Updates will follow as conditions warrant.


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