Largest Solar Flare in 5 Years Hits Earth

March 10, 2012 | Current Events, Environment

(Photo: AP)

The earth was hit by a solar storm with a speed of 600 miles per second and ten times stronger than a solar wind.

According to weather scientists, the Sun’s magnetic activity has resulted to an explosion and caused the emission of solar flare headed towards the Earth.

Considered as the largest flare in five years, the storm occurred last Tuesday and its strength has created the colourful auroras of Northern Lights in North America. So far, no damage has been reported.

What are solar flares?

When two or more sunspots rotate within the same period of time, the energy injected into the Sun’s magnetic field has the power to produce large solar flares also known as coronal mass ejection. Billions of charged particles are launched toward the Earth and can cause disruptions to satellites and telecommunications.

What are the threats of solar storms?

The radio, magnetic and radiation emissions of this natural phenomenon have a great impact on Earth’s technology. Here are the threats of solar storms:

  • disruption to power grids
  • GPS outages
  • rerouting of airline flights
  • damage to space satellites
  • knock out computer systems and medical devices

In 1972, a solar flare knocked out telecommunication lines across Illinois. In 1989, another solar storm caused damaged power grid in Quebec leaving million people without electricity.

Experts have warned that solar storms in the future can be more damaging as we approach the “solar maximum”. However, scientists are conducting research studies to better understand this phenomenon and enable them to predict its occurrence accurately.

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