Bloomberg News

Largest Solar Radiation Storm in Six Years Headed Toward Earth

January 24, 2012

Jan. 24 (Bloomberg) -- The Earth will be bombarded today by the strongest solar radiation storm in six years, with a limited potential to affect satellites and power grids, officials say.

The coronal mass ejection, a violent release of plasma and magnetic fields from the sun, is hurtling toward the Earth at 4 million miles per hour and should hit about 9 a.m. New York time, according to the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration.

“The last time we had a radiation storm this strong was May 2005,” said Doug Biesecker, a physicist at NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center in Boulder, Colorado. “That’s really the reason this event is remarkable -- it’s just been so long since we’ve seen this.”

The ejection will bring with it a geomagnetic storm that could reach a G3 level, or “Strong” ranking. While the radiation may be felt by communication system satellites and the power grid on Earth, scientists expect little practical effect, Biesecker said.

--Editors: Andrew Pollack, Stephen West

To contact the reporter on this story: Ryan Flinn in San Francisco at rflinn@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Reg Gale at rgale5@bloomberg.net


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