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Solar blast heading our way


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Kiwithrottlejockey
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« on: August 03, 2010, 03:12:57 pm »


Solar blast heading toward Earth

Stuff.co.nz | 11:42AM - Tuesday, 03 August 2010

BRIGHT LIGHTS: Aurora Australis, or the “Southern Lights”, glow in the sky over the town of Glen Oroua near Palmerston North, on April 01, 2001, in the area's most dramatic display since 1989. — Photo: REUTERS.
BRIGHT LIGHTS: Aurora Australis, or the “Southern Lights”, glow in the sky over the town of Glen Oroua near
Palmerston North, on April 01, 2001, in the area's most dramatic display since 1989. — Photo: REUTERS.


MASSIVE SUN FLARES which have sent a wave of solar supercharged gas toward Earth are expected to reach New Zealand later today, NASA warns.

The first visual effects could be on display tonight with a display of aurora australis or southern polar lights.

NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory says Earth's natural magnetic shield will protect the planet but warn of spectacular displays of the aurora or northern and southern lights.

Aurora australis, or the "Southern Lights", are common in the southern hemisphere and included a spectacular display across parts of New Zealand in April, 2001. The sky over the South Island also treated stargazers and photographers to a magical display of aurora australis in April this year.

Auroral activity results from atomic particles spiralling into the earth's north and south polar atmosphere along magnetic field lines and then colliding with atmospheric molecules, resulting in the emission of energy in different forms including light.

Scientists have warned that a really big solar eruption could wreck satellites, power and communications grids.

Science writer Paul Sutherland, blogging on Skymania.com, says there have been two massive explosions on the Sun.

By chance, the explosions were aligned towards Earth, sending what Sutherland calls "a solar tsunami" toward Earth.

The solar outbursts on Sunday were recorded by several satellites including NASA's new Solar Dynamics Observatory which watched its shockwave rippling outwards.

UK solar expert Dr Lucie Green, of the Mullard Space Science Laboratory, in Surrey, followed the flare-ups using Japan's orbiting Hinode telescope.

"What wonderful fireworks the Sun has been producing," she told Skymania.

"This was a very rare event — not one, but two almost simultaneous eruptions from different locations on the sun were launched toward the Earth.

"These eruptions occur when immense magnetic structures in the solar atmosphere lose their stability and can no longer be held down by the sun's huge gravitational pull. Just like a coiled spring suddenly being released, they erupt into space.

Dr Green said if the eruptions do collide with the Earth's magnetic field the conditions need to be right for there to be an effect like the northern lights.


http://www.stuff.co.nz/world/south-pacific/3984625/Solar-blast-heading-toward-Earth
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