Sunday, March 18, 2012

Largest Solar Storm in 11 Years Hits Earth

photo by Discovery News

photo by Discovery News

If you live in Alaska, Canada or some of the far northern states of the US, then you may have noticed some spectacular lights in the sky on St. Patrick’s Day and maybe even some yesterday night, depending on where you live. Well, as it turns out the Earth was recently hit with a huge coronal mass ejection (CME) from the sun which has resulted in the biggest solar storm in the last 11 years.

According to Discovery News, the large CME was launched from the sun on Sunday and reached the Earth far faster than expected, impacting the earth’s magnetosphere and creating the massive solar storm and auroral displays.

But it isn’t all pretty lights. Storms like this frequently disrupt GPS and other satellite communcations, damage satellites and may even overload power grids in some areas. As of writing this, the storm is ongoing so I haven’t seen any specific news about damage, but I am certain that some people in the northern hemisphere saw some serious GPS disruption on Tuesday and Wednesday.

CMEs are basically made of huge bubbles of energized gas from the sun’s atmosphere which can react with the Earth’s magnetosphere if it hits at just the right angle. When this happens, the CME is referred to as “geoeffective” and will cause “intense disruption and extreme storms.”

If you want to read more about solar storms and the most recent aurora from this particular storm, check out the awesome article on Discovery News.

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