TriCom Technical Services

The Solar Storm – a small inconvenience

In airelines, GPS, solar, solar flare, solar storm, sun on March 8, 2012 at 12:31 pm

If your radio stations are a little fuzzy or your GPS isn’t working quite right, it could be due to the solar storm the earth will endure throughout today.

On Tuesday night, March 6, 2012, the sun erupted in a massive solar flare that was seen exploding across its surface, birthing a geomagnetic storm that reached the Earth’s atmosphere early this morning.

So what exactly is a solar flare?

According to Wikipedia: A solar flare is a sudden brightening observed over the sun’s surface or the solar limb, which is interpreted as a large energy release of up to 6 × 1025 joules of energy. (A joule of energy being about a sixth of the total energy output of the Sun each second). The flare ejects clouds of electrons, ions, and atoms through the corona into space. These clouds typically reach Earth a day or two after the event, resulting in a solar storm.

Depending on the level of severity, a solar storm has the capability to disrupt satellites, spike the voltage in transmission lines which could damage grid transformers, and potentially knock power out. Generally though, the physical damage of an average storm is low and manageable.

So far, no impact has been reported on GPS navigation systems, airline systems, or power grid; proving the solar storm to be somewhat of a dud. That said, it is possible for it to intensify in the coming hours. At most, the storm is expected to cause minor disturbances world-wide, which may turn out to be more than just an inconvenience.

There is however a silver lining to this spacey activity – some North Americans may be able to view auroras Thursday and Friday night. Keep your camera on hand tonight if you’re able to make it outside – we would love to see your photos!

Solar storm: More to come | Los Angeles Times

Solar Storms: Five Facts You Should Know | CNet

  1. Here’s a photo of the solar storm in Iceland (credit: Reddit)

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