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What’s this I hear about a solar tsunami?

August 4, 2010
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Article taken from Sify News.

Some people have been urging fellow-earthlings to look toward the north for rippling curtains of red and green light.

Others have been worried about an electronic Armageddon.

NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, which captures high-definition views of the sun at a variety of wavelengths, snapped an X-ray photo of the Sun early in the morning of Sunday, August 1st.

The satellites recorded a dark arc, identified as a large filament of cool gas stretching across the Sun’s northern hemisphere also exploded into space.

The explosion, called a coronal mass ejection, was aimed directly towards Earth, which then sent a “solar tsunami” racing 93 million miles across space.

When a coronal mass ejection (touted as a ‘solar tsunami’) reaches Earth, expected to happen on August 4, solar particles stream down the planet’s magnetic field lines toward the poles.

In the process, the particles collide with atoms of nitrogen and oxygen in the Earth’s atmosphere, which then glow, creating an effect similar to miniature neon signs.

The interaction between solar particles and the magnetic field has the potential to create geomagnetic storms in Earth’s magnetosphere.

And while aurorae are normally visible only at high latitudes, they can light up the sky even at lower latitudes during a geomagnetic storm.

However, the atmosphere filters out nearly all of the radiation from the solar blast, while the magnetic field deflects any magnetic particles produced.”

Experts said the radiation “almost never” makes it to ground, though pilots and passengers in airplanes may experience increased radiation levels akin to getting an X-ray.

The solar particles also could affect satellites, though scientists think that possibility is remote.

But it can have serious consequences too.

Orbital Sciences Corp. believe a similar blast may have knocked its Galaxy 15 satellite permanently out of action this year.

NASA scientists warned recently that high-energy electric pulses from the sun could cripple our electrical grid for years, causing billions in damages.

The sun’s activity usually ebbs and flows on a fairly predictable cycle. Typically, a cycle lasts about 11 years, taking roughly 5.5 years to move from a solar minimum, a period of time when there are few sunspots, to peak at the solar maximum, during which sunspot activity is amplified.

The last solar maximum occurred in 2001, but was particularly weak and long lasting.

The most recent solar eruption is one of the first signs that the sun is waking up – and heading toward another maximum.

But other media reports said this solar storm is likely to fizzle out, and that a much more intense solar storm, in fact, happened in April.

Experts said the wave of supercharged gas will likely reach the Earth on Tuesday, when it will buffet the natural magnetic shield protecting Earth. It is likely to spark spectacular displays of the aurora or northern and southern lights.

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