Solar Eruptions Set to Hit Earth

Environment | February 17, 2011, Thursday // 21:03|  views

A picture taken by the sun observation satellite Solar Dynamics Observatory SDO shows an exceptionally heavy plasma eruption on the surface of the sun on 08 September 2010. Photo by EPA/BGNES

Scientists around the world will be watching closely as three eruptions from the Sun are to reach the Earth on Friday.

These "coronal mass ejections" will slam into the Earth's magnetic shield.

The US National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa) said that three coronal mass ejections (CMEs) were en route as the result of solar flares on the 13, 14 and 15 February (GMT).

"The last of the three seems to be the fastest and may catch both of the forerunners about mid-to-late day tomorrow, February 17," read a statement from Noaa's Space Weather Prediction Center.

The waves of charged solar particles are the result of three solar flares directed at Earth in recent days, including the most powerful since 2006.

The biggest flares can disrupt technology, including power grids, communications systems and satellites.

The northern lights (Aurora Borealis) may also be visible further south than is normally the case - including from northern parts of the UK.

"Our current view is that the effect of the solar flare is likely to reach Earth later today (Thursday GMT), possibly tomorrow morning," said Alan Thomson, head of geomagnetism at the British Geological Survey (BGS).

He told BBC News: "In the scientific community, there's a feeling that it's not as intense as we first thought it might be. But it's possible still that it could be a large enough event for us to see the northern lights in the UK."

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Tags: flare, eruptions, Earth, sun, coronal mass ejections, Solar


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