Friday, February 18, 2011

Solar Flare 2011 is already here !

Solar Flare 2011 : Northern Lights Tonight

solar flare 2011 coronal mass ejection makes aurora

The solar portrait from Tuesday shows Solar Flare 2011 near the center of the disc. Around the disc edges, wimpy, little flares stand out from the surface. We don't see Class X Flare 2011 standing out from the surface because it is pointed straight at us, we are looking right down the barrel of the gun.
A Class X solar flare sent three blasts of charged particles toward Earth over the last few days,  The effect will be felt Thursday and Friday and last 24 to 48 hours.  Class X is the largest category.
Northern Lights will put on a dazzling show that should be visible all the way down to the northern United States and U.K.   There is some possibility of damage to electronic equipment.  Already, radio communications are being affected.
The U.S. National Weather Service reported in a statement that “Ground to air, ship to shore, shortwave broadcast and amateur radio are vulnerable to disruption during geomagnetic storms. Navigation systems like GPS can also be adversely affected.”

A Class X Solar Flare

This is the sun’s strongest magnetic eruption since 2006.   In 1973, a magnetic storm from a solar flare knocked out power to 6 million Canadians.

solar flare 2011 magnetic storm up clsoe

This is an up-close and personal peek at the giant magnetic storm causing Solar Flare 2011. The curved lines of light are the same as the lines that form with iron filings and a toy magnet.
Instabilities in the sun’s magnetic field cause charged solar material to be accelerated away from the surface of the sun at up to two million mph.  It is called a coronal mass ejection, or CME. From Earth a CME looks like a jet of flame shooting out from sun.  If the jet is pointed at Earth, we know we can expect the high-energy charged particles to arrive in a few days.



The Northern Lights

When the particles hit the Earth’s magnetic field at the poles, they spiral down the magnetic field lines.  The spiraling causes them to emit light:  The Aurora Borealis in the north and the Aurora Australis in the south.

aurora borealis or northern lights from a solar flare

The Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights in action. The charged particles are streaming down the Earth's magnetic field lines.
When speeding charged particles pass wires, like phone lines or power lines, they induce electricity to flow in the wire.  This can cause very high voltages to build up.  That is what damaged the power grid in the 1973 Canadian event.

Geomagnetic Storm
Since 1973, the entire world has adopted computerized communications and controls.  The problem is that modern computer chips are extremely voltage sensitive.  Scientists warn that there is a very real probability that eventually a solar flare could knock out all modern electronics.
When was the last time you saw a video of a sun-spot and solar flare?

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