WASHINGTON D.C. A strong solar flare is blasting its way to Earth. It has been several years since Earth has had a solar storm of this size coming from sunspots smack in the middle of the sun, said Tom Berger, director of the Space Weather Prediction Center in Boulder, Colorado.
The flare on the sun hits â€œExtremeâ€ on the forecastersâ€™ scale, and such flares can result in power blackouts and disturb satellite, radio and television signals. The worst such disturbance occurred in the late 1800’s and was responsible for a major disruption in the telegraph system worldwide.
The energy emitted from such an event, overloads the wiring of electrical systems and can cause fires as it did during the 1880 event. That event resulted in a total communications black out for several hours and cost several hundreds of thousands of dollars to repair the damage caused by it.
Fortunately, this event is predicted to mostly miss Earth with the majority of the energy passing above the North Pole. The most recent calculations from satellite data show that the worst of the energetic particles streaming from the sun will pass harmlessly by the Earth, this time.
So while the power grid may see fluctuations because the storm will cause changes in Earthâ€™s magnetic field, it shouldnâ€™t knock power systems off line, Berger said. It may cause disturbances in satellites and radio transmissions. â€œWeâ€™re not scared of this one,â€ Berger said.
The storm is moving medium fast, about 2.5 million miles per hour, meaning the soonest it could arrive is early Friday. But it could be later, Berger said. Solar storms occur often, especially during peaks in the solar cycle, and donâ€™t directly harm people.
â€œThereâ€™s been a giant magnetic explosion on the sun,â€ Berger said. â€œBecause itâ€™s pointed right at us, weâ€™ll at least catch some of the cloudâ€ of highly energized and magnetized plasma that can disrupt Earthâ€™s magnetic sphere, which sometimes leads to temporary power grid problems.
This is the second time in a week that the Earth has dodged a cosmic calamity. On Sunday we just missed a collision with a house sized asteroid by 25,000 miles. That is about the distance around the Earth at its widest point.
Â©2015 R. L. Grimes