A near X-class solar flare that erupted on the sun on August 3rd has sent a powerful coronal mass ejection toward earth which has overtaken two previous CMEs and combined with them. Analysts at the GSFC Space Weather Lab believe that the combined triple-CME will reach earth around 6 AM US Pacific Time on August 5th, give or take a 7 hour window.
The GSFC analysts have issued a statement that "the impact on Earth is likely to be major: the estimated maximum geomagnetic activity index level Kp is 7 on a scale of 0-9." According to Montana State University's Coronal Mass Ejection Prediction Page, CMEs "can affect various systems in different ways. In extreme cases, electrical currents can be induced in long metal structures, like power lines and oil/gas pipelines. Additionally, the high-speed charged particles of the CME can cause the buildup of electrical charge in metal structures in satellites; such buildups of electrical charge can be damaging to the sensitive electronic systems common in telecommunications satellites.'
If the triple CME impacts earth directly, both aurora borealis and aurora australis could be dramatic, with the aurora borealis visible far down into the mid-lattitudes of the Northern Hemisphere. A sufficiently powerful coronal mass ejection can affect electronic and electrical devices on Earth's surface, and it is possible that monitoring systems on such structures as long oil and gas pipelines could give inaccurate readings, and global positioning systems and equipment on the surface could be rendered inaccurate during the hours that the CME will be affecting Earth.
CMEs cause effects on Earth because they strip away the planet's magnetic field, exposing its lower atmosphere and to some extent its surface to solar emissions such as gamma rays and charged particles. There is unlikely to be any physical danger from the present coronal mass ejection, although there is some evidence that gamma ray bursts either from the sun or from the explosion of distant stars can cause physical effects at times.
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