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Sun continues to spew

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A fast-moving cloud of solar plasma and charged particles, called a coronal mass ejection, was triggered by the Tuesday X-class eruptions, and this wave of energetic particles hit Earth yesterday. The resulting geomagnetic storm was weaker than expected, but solar physicists say there is a potential for conditions to escalate.

"We still have about a 40 percent chance of seeing another X flare," Rutledge said. "We still think it's fairly likely to see one later today, tomorrow or the next day. We're watching this region closely."

A coronal mass ejection from last night's flare is also approaching Earth, and while this one is expected to hit Earth directly on Sunday (March 11), experts at the Space Weather Prediction Center are not anticipating the effects to be very severe.

"[It] could cause storming levels that could reach the G3 (strong) level again, but we don't believe it will have quite the sustained intensity," Rutledge said.

Still, the massive sunspot region shows no signs of quieting down, and earlier today, NASA scientists said that it also appears to be growing.

"Sunspot AR1429 keeps getting bigger! It's more than 7 times the width of Earth," scientists with NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory said via Twitter.

With this sunspot region now facing Earth, at the central meridian of the solar disk, strong solar eruptions have the potential to wreak havoc on the planet. Big coronal mass ejections that hit Earth head-on can potentially knock out power grids and disrupt other electronics infrastructure. Strong solar storms can also disrupt satellites in space and pose radiation risks for astronauts aboard the International Space Station.

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