SCIENCE: Solar Flare about to cause Northern/Southern Lights

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    Default Solar Flare about to cause Northern/Southern Lights

    Massive Solar Flare Headed Toward Earth, May Spark Celestial Light Show | Fox News

    Quote Originally Posted by Fox News
    A powerful flare erupted from the sun Thursday, Jan. 19, unleashing a plasma wave that may supercharge the northern lights for skywatchers in high latitudes this weekend.

    The solar flare occurred at about 11:30 am EST (1600 GMT) and touched off a massive solar explosion — known as a coronal mass ejection — aimed at Earth, space weather experts and officials said. The charged particles from the sun explosion should reach Earth by Saturday night (Jan. 21), and could amp up northern lights displays when they hit the upper atmosphere.

    "Forecasters say strong geomagnetic storms are possible when the cloud arrives during the late hours of Jan. 21st. High-latitude (and possibly middle-latitude) sky watchers should be alert for auroras this weekend," the skywatching website Spaceweather.com announced in an alert.

    Several space telescopes recorded photos and video of the solar flare, including NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) and the Solar Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO). [Photo and video of the solar flare]

    According to the Space Weather Prediction Center maintained by NOAA, Thursday's solar flare erupted from an active sunspot group called Region 1401. Another solar hotspot, called Region 1402, is also fired off a flare, the center reported.

    Auroras occur when charged particles from the sun interact with Earth's upper atmosphere, releasing visible light in the process. The particles are funneled toward Earth's polar regions by the planet's magnetic field, with the northern auroral displays known as the aurora borealis, or northern lights. The southern counterpart is called the aurora australis, or southern lights.

    Thursday's solar flare rated as a powerful M2-class sun storm on the scale used by astronomers to measure flare strength. M-class storms are powerful, but mid-range, types of solar flares. They fall between the weaker C-class flares and the most powerful X-class solar storms, which can pose a threat to satellites and astronauts in orbit, cause widespread communications interference and damage infrastructure on Earth when aimed directly at the planet.

    SDO mission scientists have said that sunspot group 1401 has been unleashing solar flares almost daily as the sun's rotation slowly turned the solar hotspot toward Earth in recent days. On Wednesday (Jan. 18), the region unleashed an M1.7-class solar flare, they said in a Twitter post.

    The sun is currently in the middle of an active phase of its 11-year solar weather cycle. The current sun storm cycle, called Solar Cycle 24, is expected to peak in 2013, NASA scientists have said.

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    Default Re: Solar Flare about to cause Northern/Southern Lights

    I'm hoping the northern lights happen in my area. I've only seen them once when I was about five years old. My mom woke me up at 4 AM and told me to look in the sky at the back yard window. It was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen (and still is to this day) and is what kicked my nerdish love of outer space off.

    Unfortunately, I'm not getting my hopes up. They're far too rare in my area. :(

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    Default Re: Solar Flare about to cause Northern/Southern Lights

    I sure hope Ireland is northerly enough... :3
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    Default Re: Solar Flare about to cause Northern/Southern Lights

    I've seen the Northern Lights pretty frequently here in MN. It's nothing special. ^^

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    Default Re: Solar Flare about to cause Northern/Southern Lights

    Dawn~Berlitz said we should worry about the Solar Flare because it might hit us seeing as it's bigger than 2005's.

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    Default Re: Solar Flare about to cause Northern/Southern Lights

    The only kinds of solar flares we really need to worry about are X-class plasma storms, the most powerful ones. This was rated as an M-2 flare/storm. Considering there are 9 stages per class (M-1 through M-9), and the power of storms exponentially increases with each grade, the likelihood of us being affected is none. The only people who were really in any danger were those aboard the ISS and those flying in extremely high altitudes.

    Now, if the sun unleashed an X-1 plasma storm, we'd be in trouble. Those are powerful enough to punch through the earth's magnetic field and reach the ground, which can damage sensitive electronics and power grids. I remember reading somewhere that an X-6 storm would be completely catastrophic, as the energy output would be enough to push our atmosphere out of the gravitational pull of the planet. So yeah, nothing to worry about with this particular one. :P

    On another note, did anyone see anything? I went out into the dark countryside last night to increase my chances of seeing something, but clouds started to move in rapidly and ruined that idea.

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    Default Re: Solar Flare about to cause Northern/Southern Lights

    Quote Originally Posted by Caitlin View Post
    The only kinds of solar flares we really need to worry about are X-class plasma storms, the most powerful ones. This was rated as an M-2 flare/storm. Considering there are 9 stages per class (M-1 through M-9), and the power of storms exponentially increases with each grade, the likelihood of us being affected is none. The only people who were really in any danger were those aboard the ISS and those flying in extremely high altitudes.

    Now, if the sun unleashed an X-1 plasma storm, we'd be in trouble. Those are powerful enough to punch through the earth's magnetic field and reach the ground, which can damage sensitive electronics and power grids. I remember reading somewhere that an X-6 storm would be completely catastrophic, as the energy output would be enough to push our atmosphere out of the gravitational pull of the planet. So yeah, nothing to worry about with this particular one. :P
    He said the solar flare destroyed Quebec's power source in 1989, so it's gonna happen again in another area with this one. Should this mean I should stop listening to him?

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    Default Re: Solar Flare about to cause Northern/Southern Lights

    Umm...It is an M-9 Storm, not an M-2.

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    Default Re: Solar Flare about to cause Northern/Southern Lights

    there are indications if we get hit by even 1 of the x-class solar flares the sun produces depending on what part of the world it hits it will cause a poweroutage for one or multiple countries and that outge would last months or even yearz
    also on a solar storm chart on a 1 to 5 scale with 1 being weak and 5 being strongest/hell this storm ranks a 3
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    Default Re: Solar Flare about to cause Northern/Southern Lights

    Quote Originally Posted by Eredar Warlock View Post
    Umm...It is an M-9 Storm, not an M-2.
    Hmm, strange. My source (spaceweather.com) said it was an M2.

    He said the solar flare destroyed Quebec's power source in 1989, so it's gonna happen again in another area with this one. Should this mean I should stop listening to him?
    While it's true that solar flare destroyed power grids, it had to have been much more powerful than this one, especially if the aurora could be seen from northern Mexico; This storm has already hit us and nothing has happened aside from a few airplane flights being delayed or rerouted to avoid the path of the radiation waves.

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    Default Re: Solar Flare about to cause Northern/Southern Lights

    Way awesome. But I'm here in Florida so I'm not gonna see anything.

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    Default Re: Solar Flare about to cause Northern/Southern Lights

    Posting here again, because we've got a bigger one this time.

    Sun fires off 2 huge solar flares, could impact weather on Earth | Fox News

    Quote Originally Posted by Fox News
    A giant blast of plasma spat from the sun at as much as 4 million miles per hour Tuesday -- by some measures the largest solar event since late 2006 -- and it could lead to serious issues on Earth, forcing some planes to reroute, knocking out power grids, and blacking out radios.

    The sun unleashed the cosmic double whammy late March 6, erupting with two major flares to cap a busy day of powerful solar storms, Space.com reported. One of the flares is the most powerful solar eruption so far this year.

    “Super Tuesday? You bet!” joked Joseph Kunches, a space weather scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

    Both of the huge flares ranked as X-class storms, the strongest type of solar flares the sun can have. They followed several weaker, but still powerful, sun storms on Tuesday and came just days after another major solar flare on Sunday night.

    “By some measures this is the strongest one since December of 2006,” Kunches explained. Solar activity has already led to an R3 level radio blackout on NOAA’s space weather scale, he explained, a midstrength event on a scale that reaches to R5. Such effects are caused by X-ray emissions from the sun.

    The bigger effects will hit the planet over the next 24 hours.

    “Power grid operators have all been alerted."

    - Joseph Kunches, NOAA space weather scientist

    For one thing, geomagnetic storms -- disturbances in the geomagnetic field that surrounds the planet -- should hit the G3 level, midway up the scale. That could lead to surges in power lines (a major problem for power companies) and issues with satellites.

    “Power grid operators have all been alerted, as well as the regulatory agencies that all pay attention to this,” Kunches said.

    GPS users will also be affected because of the highly charged atmosphere; it’s very possible that certain types of applications will be interrupted, specifically highly precise calculations and the high-frequency communications that airplanes rely upon.

    Indeed, some polar flights have already been affected, he said.

    “Some have already taken action to reroute to ensure their [high-frequency communication],” Kunches said.

    Solar radiation storms could reach as high as S4, he noted, which could cause astronauts on the International Space Station to seek shelter from the heightened radiation levels associated with such a storm.

    These effects should last about 24 hours, probably lingering overnight into the early morning hours on Friday, pending another eruption -- “and we think there will be more coming,” Kunches said.

    The upside? Some areas may experience a wonderful display of the Northern Lights.

    “It’s the treat that we get when the sun erupts,” he said.

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    Default Re: Solar Flare about to cause Northern/Southern Lights

    A surge that lasts for 24 hours? Shoot, I have an online Spanish test tomorrow, and I fear it might interrupt my class' activity.

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