Thursday, February 17, 2011

Earth Dodges Geomagnetic Storm

A wave of charged plasma particles from a huge solar eruption has glanced off the Earth's northern pole, lighting up auroras and disrupting some radio communications, a NASA scientist said. But the Earth appears to have escaped a widespread geomagnetic storm, with the effects confined to the northern latitudes, possibly reaching down into Norway and Canada.

The event began Tuesday at 0156 GMT with a spectacular solar eruption in a sunspot the size of Jupiter that produced a Class X flash -- the most powerful of all solar events. The eruption blasted a torrent of charged plasma particles called a coronal mass ejection (CME) toward Earth at about 560 miles per second, the Solar Dynamics Observatory reported. But the spiraling beam of solar particles from Tuesday's eruption was passing behind the Earth without making a direct hit. "In this case, it appears it will curve around and not hit us," he said.

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