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Posted at 01:13 PM ET, 01/24/2012

Solar storm passes Earth: ‘A taste of what’s going to come’ next year

This post has been updated.

At 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, the last wave of radiation and charged plasma in a solar storm passed the Earth. The sun released the stream of charged particles Sunday night and it hit Earth with full force midday Tuesday.
A flare shoots out of the top of the sun Sunday night. (AP)

Despite the warnings that the solar storm would be the biggest since 2005, the National Weather Service rated the storm a 2 on a scale of 1 (minor) to 5 (extreme).

The National Oceanic and Atomospheric Administration said side effects from the storm could be possible transformer damage and some irreuglarites with GPS at high latitudes. It will also make for a spectacular aurora borealis — one that can be seen as low as New York and Idaho. (Watch last night’s show below.)

NASA sent out an alert to the White House and satellite operators Monday predicting the storm and warning of possible damage.

Prof. W. Jeffrey Hughes, director of the Center for Integrated Space Weather Modeling at Boston University, said that the storm was significant only in relation to the past six years.

“In the last six years, we’ve gone through the quietest solar period in more than a 100 years,” Hughes said. Next year will be a maximum peak for sun activity, so Hughes says the solar disturbances are predictable and will increase in size and regularity over the next few years.

“Activity should pick up over the next few years. This is the biggest taste of what’s going to come next year and 2014.” Solar activity waxes and wanes on a roughly 11-year cycle. Hughes says the sun has been relatively quiet since 2002.


This image provided by NASA shows the Sun unleashing a medium-sized flare, a minor radiation storm and a spectacular coronal mass ejection on June 7, 2011. (AP)

By  |  01:13 PM ET, 01/24/2012

Tags:  National, Solar storm, NASA: Doug Biesecker

 
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