Massive Solar Storm Heading Towards Earth, May Disrupt Flights, Satellites and Power Grids

   on March 08 2012 4:13 AM

A mammoth geomagnetic storm, apparently the biggest in last five years, is expected to hit the Earth's surface Thursday.

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The sun erupts with one of the largest solar flares of this solar cycle in this NASA handout photo taken on March 6, 2012. Image Credit: Reuters

According to the U.S. space weather experts, the storm is relatively intense than any other event in past few years.

It could disrupt oil pipelines, airplane routes, satellite navigation systems, GPS systems, agricultural operations, power grids and the Earth's magnetic field, Reuters reported.

The geomagnetic component of the storm, big lump of charged particles (Coronal mass of Sun's atmosphere) is routing from Sun at about 4.5 million miles per hour (7.2 km/hr) towards the Earth and is expected to strike between 6:00 a.m. to 10 a.m.

It's hitting us right in the nose, a space weather specialist at the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Joseph Kunches said.

In terms of what that means from the public's point of view, there's an increased chance of aurora borealis or Northern Lights being seen if conditions are right and the skies are clear, the Met Office spokesman noted.

The occurrence will not be visible to most parts except at mid-latitudes (New York in the U.S.), The Guardian reported.

 From midnight there will be widespread cloud so there is unlikely to be much visibility. Gemma Plumb, a forecaster with Meteogroup said.

The storm, however, might arrive ahead of schedule as the previous storm is already pounding Earth's magnetosphere, Kunches said. When you've already had one coronal mass ejection storm, sometimes the next coronal mass ejection storm is faster to get here.

According to an astrophysicist at the University of New Hampshire, the Sun is on the ascendant phase of its 11-year cycle of solar activity, with the peak expected next year, Harlan Spence said. It's a clear harbinger that the Sun is waking up.

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The sun erupts with one of the largest solar flares of this solar cycle in this multi-colored NASA handout photo taken on March 6, 2012. Image Credit: Reuters.

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