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Solar flares may affect cellular phones today
From staff and wire reports Friday, July 14, 2000
There is a 40 percent chance that the mass ejection of two huge clouds of electrified gas, which erupted from the sun Monday and Tuesday, could trigger a disruption of the Earth's magnetic field today, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration said Thursday.
Cell phones and pagers, which rely on satellites, might be affected by solar flares, said Jason Heaton, an assistant in the Astronomy Department at Dayton's Boonshoft Museum of Discovery.
The sun is at the peak of its 11-year cycle of intense activity, he said Thursday.
"Right now we're at a solar maximum, which means lots of solar flares," Heaton said, and because orbiting satellites are not shielded by the atmosphere, "communication is the biggest problem and the biggest worry."
The NOAA, which predicts the effects of solar eruptions, also said the eruptions could create aurora lights reaching into the mid-latitudes, which would include the southern United States.
But being able to see those lights in the Dayton area isn't likely, said Cheri Adams, astronomy director at Boonshoft.
The space agency said the coronal mass ejection sent a bubble of plasma--electrified gas--toward the Earth at more than 2 million mph.
The first shock wave was expected to smash into Earth's magnetic field on Thursday. Material from a second, more powerful ejection is expected today.
Staff writer Andrew Chow contributed to this Associated Press report
-- Martin Thompson (email@example.com), July 14, 2000
Jul 14, 2000 - 05:29 PM
Magnetic Storm Forecast Following Giant Sunspot Flare By Randolph E. Schmid Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) - A magnetic storm that could disrupt radio transmissions and satellites - and also produce colorful northern lights - is expected to strike the earth Saturday and could last until Monday. The massive sunspot eruption took place early Friday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported.
"The storm is expected to reach strong to severe levels, which can adversely affect satellite operations and power grids," reported the agency.
In addition, space weather forecasters said there is a good chance of seeing the Aurora Saturday through Sunday morning in cities as far south as Washington, D.C., Seattle, New York and Denver.
NOAA's Space Environment Center in Boulder, Colo., reported that Friday's large complex sunspot group produced one of the largest solar flares seen in recent years.
The solar flare, a giant eruption bursting out from the surface of the sun, took place about 6:24 a.m. EDT, the center said.
The event ejected billions of tons of plasma and charged particles into space, some of it heading toward Earth at 3 million miles per hour. The mass ejection is expected to strike the Earth's magnetic field on Saturday afternoon and cause the geomagnetic storm.
The Earth's magnetic field protects the planet from most such charged particles, but in a strong burst such as this some disruptions can occur. As the field deflects the incoming particles they are moved toward the north and south poles where they cause the northern and southern lights, called auroras.
The NOAA scientists reported that the solar flare has already caused some effects on Earth, including some radio blackouts.
A NASA satellite located about one million miles upstream from Earth detects geomagnetic storms approaching Earth and provides NOAA forecasters with a warning about one hour before they reach Earth's magnetic field.
In 1989, a severe solar storm knocked out power stations serving Canada and the northeastern states, as well as an electrical transformer in New Jersey. Since then, power grid and satellite operators have taken steps to protect their systems.
The sun is currently in the most intense phase of its 11-year sunspot cycle
-- Martin Thompson (firstname.lastname@example.org), July 14, 2000.