Solar storm hits Earth

KD Suarez
Strong solar flare sends radiation burst towards Earth, causing beautiful displays of Northern Lights in northern hemisphere

MANILA, Philippines – You might not see it, but a storm is pummeling our planet right now.

The Earth is currently experiencing a huge solar storm, one of the strongest recorded since 2005, posing no harmful effects on humans and leaving wonderful sights in the northern sky.

A solar storm is a burst of radiation coming from the Sun, which occurs when energy in magnatic fields in the Sun suddenly bursts out (a solar flare). The resulting burst of radiation (a coronal mass ejection, or CME) then travels across space towards the Earth.

US scientists recorded a solar flare at around 11 pm Sunday, Jan. 22, 2012 (12nn Monday, Jan. 23, 2012 in Manila), with the CME directed towards the earth.

Scientists measured the solar flare as an M8.7 class flare, one of the strongest since 2003.

Models made by the NASA’s Goddard Space Weather Center predicted the CME moved at around 1,400 miles per second (approximately 2,253 kilometers per second), causing it to hit the planet in just over 35 hours.

The solar storm has caused colorful displays of the aurora borealis, or the Northern Lights, in numerous parts of the northern hemisphere nearer to the poles, such as northern North America (Canada and Alaska) and Scandinavia.

However, it could also cause disruptions in electricity, aviation, communications, and spacecraft operations. Delta Airlines, for example, has diverted some of its flights away from routes that normally pass near the North Pole.

The storm hasn’t made any major disturbances or disruptions in electrical grids or communications so far.

The effects of the storm are expected to be felt on Earth until Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2012. However, scientists predict there will be more intense solar activity as 2013 approaches, when the star hits its peak activity in its regular 11-year cycle. – Rappler.com

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