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Solar flares ate my GPS

Worse to come in 2011?

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Did you get lost while out driving in December? If you did, blame the solar flare that zapped signals sent out by the GPS satellite network to keep travellers travelling in the right direction.

According to researchers at New York's Cornell University, two major solar flares observed on 5 and 6 December emitted blasts of radio noise that were ten times more intense than than the worst burst then on record, Reuters reports.

The New Jersey Institute of Technology measured the radio activity and found the flares generated 20,000 times more noise than that emitted by the rest of the sun's surface.

When the radio waves reached the Earth they disrupted connections between GPS satellites and receivers.

Details of the GPS-busting event were revealed at the Space Weather Enterprise Forum conference currently being held in Washington.

The concern is the timing of the event. December's radio blasts took place during one of the sun's regular, 11-year quiet times. Equally, the sun experiences peaks of solar flare and sunspot activity during the so-called 'solar maxima', which likewise occur every 11 years.

The next minimum is due mid-2007, after which solar activity will rise before reaching the next maximum in 2011.

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