Power cuts threat as sun storm hits earth
Friday, Aug 19 2011
A huge mass of electrically-charged particles thrown out by a gigantic eruption on the Sun is due to strike the Earth tonight.
Scientists expect it to trigger one of the most violent geomagnetic storms ever recorded.
The result could be widespread power surges and even blackouts, disrupted TV and mobile phone signals, and broken down communication satellites.
At the same time the Northern Lights, normally confined to polar latitudes, may produce dazzling displays in the skies above southern Britain.
At least one satellite has already been knocked out of action by the storm. Japan’s space agency said its Kodama communications satellite had been temporarily shut down after malfunctioning.
The solar flare that caused the eruption burst out of a sunspot at 10.54am yesterday.
Experts said it was the strongest flare seen in the past 30 years. The explosion caused a coronal mass ejection (CME) which is now speeding towards Earth.
Last week another CME only hit the Earth a glancing blow, yet was able to disrupt airline communications.
The solar flare was classified as an X18-category explosion, meaning it can trigger planet-wide radio blackouts and long-lasting radiation storms.