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Solar storm has a 'sting in its tail', warn space weathermen

Space station, satellites may hit particle squalls

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Thus far the ongoing solar storm which has blanketed Earth for the last 24 hours has been something of a damp squib, with no widespread problems reported. However space weathermen are warning of another "coronal mass ejection" particle squall inbound to our planet having been belched out by the Sun in the early hours of this morning.

According to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Space Weather Prediction Center, the current storm is nearly over. This morning's bulletin, issued at 08:45 GMT, says:

G1 (Minor) to G3 (Strong) storm levels are expected for at least another 6 hours. The radiation storm that is in progress is abating, falling to the S2 (Moderate) level and dropping rapidly.

G3, as we see here on the official space Beaufort scale, is really of concern only to the crew of the International Space Station and those operating satellites: spacecraft in low orbit can expect increased drag effects, and may have to fire their engines to maintain speed. On Earth, there could be ongoing issues with sat-nav and HF radio, but these should all disappear soon if they even occur.

But it may not be time to whip the tinfoil off your sensitive electronics just yet. The bulletin continues:

In the meantime, a new event is grabbing our attention. When Region 1429 was pointed directly at Earth, it unleashed an R2 (Moderate) solar flare at 0353 UTC March 9 (10:53 p.m. EST March 8) and an associated coronal mass ejection now beginning its journey towards Earth. Analysis is pending to determine the expected arrival time and resulting geomagnetic storm intensity.

So the ongoing storm may have a "sting in its tail", it seems.

That said, the Sun goes through activity peaks of the sort now occurring every 11 years without major difficulties, and this maximum is rather a weak one as these things go. Some physicists think the Sun may be headed into a lengthy quiet period decades long, perhaps with significant consequences for humanity in space and the climate of planet Earth. ®

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