Earth dodges geomagnetic storm: scientist

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.

“There can be sporadic outages based on particular small-scale events,” said Dean Persnell, project scientist at NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory at Goddard Space Flight Center.

He told AFP the official forecast is “for generally quiet conditions today, perhaps some minor storming tomorrow, but nothing extraordinary.”

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 (900 kilometers per second), the Solar Dynamics Observatory reported.

A direct hit from a CME could trigger a huge geomagnetic storm as incoming particles bounce off the Earth’s geomagnetic field, blacking out radio communications, interfering with GPS navigational systems, in theory even causing power outages.

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