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Space weather on Friday the 13th

By Jasmine, 13 March 2015 News

Three images of explosions on the Sun.

Image: NASA captured the images of three mid-level solar flares from 7–9 March 2015. They all came from the same active region on the surface of the Sun.
Credit: NASA/SDO

Written by Beth Askham

A minor geomagnetic storm was forecast for around midday (Australia time) Friday the 13 of March. The storm is a result of three solar flares from the Sun that occurred earlier this week. Looks like we’re in for some rough space weather!

The coronal mass ejections from these solar flares may strike a glancing blow to the Earth this Friday, according to scientists from the Space Weather Prediction Center at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in the United States.

Coronal mass ejections are bursts of gas and magnetic fields that are released from the Sun. It takes a coronal mass ejection, on average, 98 hours to reach the Earth.

We don’t feel the effect of a solar flare here on the Earth’s surface because we are protected by the atmosphere and the Earth’s magnetic field. But intense solar flares can disturb high altitude satellites, including geostationary communications satellites and the GPS constellation.

Will this space weather disrupt our technology and leave us without our Friday night plan? Probably not, as the solar flares observed this week were a tenth of the size of the most intense flares.

They may, however, produce a strong aurora near the North and South Poles. So if you are anywhere near the poles, Friday night could be a good time to turn your head towards the sky.

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