NASA’s ACE spacecraft recorded a strong interplanetary shock wave at 0025UT on March 31st. The shock wave struck earth’s magnetosphere 30 minutes later. The leading edge of the wave was proton-dense and strongly magnetic.

These are characteristics that can lead to significant geomagnetic disturbances. The shock wave may be the first of two that will strike the earth in quick succession. Until the second passes the ACE spacecraft, its strength will not be known, but if it is as strong, the planet will be subjected to powerful and prolonged magentic storms. It is possible that the waves combined enroute and this will be the only one, but another wave is more likely.

Auroras generated by the first shockwave will be visible as far south as southern Kansas and Missouri in the United States, and throughout Europe. The shock wave was triggered by the first of two explosions that took place on the sun near sunspot 9393, the largest that has been seen in ten years.

The magnetic storm now in progress may cause radio blackouts and could affect vulnerable satellites. It is unlikely but not impossible that power grids will receive energy overloads. If the second wave front is as powerful or more so, some power grids could be affected. The second shock is expected Saturday afternoon, US time.

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