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Solar flare effects might have been overestimated

London, Fri, 09 Mar 2012 ANI

London, Mar 9 (ANI): The X-class flares have so far not disrupted power grids, satellite navigation and aeroplane routes, as was predicted.

 

The solar storm - ten times stronger than a normal 'solar wind' - is likely to last through Friday morning, and the region that erupted could still send more blasts our way.

 

At the height of the flare activity Joe Kunches, a scientist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said, 'It's hitting us right in the nose' - calling it the sun's version of 'Super Tuesday'.

 

But he later said his space weather prediction agency might have overestimated the effects of the bombardment.

 

The X1 solar flare in a new active region on the sun, region 1429. It has let loose two M-class flares and one X-class so far. Material erupted from the sun with each flare, though due to the fact that this active region is still off to the side of the sun, they will likely have a weak effect on Earth's magnetosphere.

 

"We expected the freight train. The freight train has gone by, is still going by, and now we're watching to see how this all shakes out," the Daily Mail quoted him as telling Fox News.

 

"We estimated the speed but we missed the spin on the ball," he said.

 

Nasa solar physicist Alex Young reckoned the flare 'could give us a bit of a jolt'.

 

However experts have warned solar storms can be devastating, and the flare may just be a preview ahead of a peak in the sun's activity next year.

 

Solar storms can disrupt technology on Earth by with magnetic, radio and radiation emissions.

 

Kunches said power companies around the Earth had been alerted for possible outages.

 

The timing and speed of a storm determines whether it will knock off power grids, he said.

 

Space-watchers said the impact - which is mainly felt in the polar regions - could be strong enough to allow a glimpse of the famous northern lights in Britain overnight.

 

Solar storms are a natural phenomenon which occur as a result of the natural rises and falls in the sun's magnetic activity over an 11-year cycle which will peak in 2013-14.

 

When it releases magnetic energy, bursts of charged particles - known as coronal mass ejections, or CMEs - can be flung towards Earth and interfere with our magnetic field.

 

The explosions on the sun created a 'coronal mass ejection' which sent a large amount of charged particles into space, but they are expected to avoid Earth because the sun spots are off to the side of our star.

 

After a large solar flare in August, this is the biggest since 2007, according to the US space agency Nasa.

 

"The event is the largest for several years, but it is not in the most severe class," said Dr Craig Underwood, Deputy Director of the Space Centre at Surrey.

 

"We may expect more storms of this kind and perhaps much more severe ones in the next year or so as we approach solar maximum.

 

"Such events act as a wake-up call as to how our modern western lifestyles are utterly dependent on space technology and national power grid infrastructure," he said. (ANI)

 


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