An unusual sequence of five consecutive solar storms will result in disrupted radio transmissions and possible effects on power systems, according to NASA’s Spaceweather.com. However, this storm does not carry radioactive particles, and air travelers and astronauts are not at risk.
“We’ve got five different opportunities to get hammered,” commented Bill Murtaugh, a forecaster for the Space Environment Center in Boulder, CO. The extended nature of this storm is likely to cause more disruption than a single, stronger storm. Larry Combs, also from the Space Environment Center, explained that “the longer this stuff affects a system, the harder it is on that system.”
The first storm should hit today around 3PM PST, and may cause minor disruptions. The second storm, the weakest of the five, is due two hours later. The next storm to strike will be the second strongest, and will impact the earth’s atmosphere at around 11PM PST.
The most powerful storm is the fourth, and it should strike the earth at around 9AM PST on Sunday. The final storm, which just appeared late Friday, should reach earth at about 5PM PST on Sunday.
The best chance to make auroral observations in the western hemisphere will be in the small hours Sunday morning, during the impact period for the third storm. The Northern Lights are expected to be visible as far south as Colorado, Illinois and North Carolina.
Another coronal hole has apparently opened up on the surface of the sun, and may lead to additional solar activity in the near future. Solar flares often emerge from these darker areas of high energy emission.
So far, this solar maximum, a cycle of higher than normal solar activity that recurs every eleven years, has been the most active since 1976, and is well on its way to become the most active on record.
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