The sun is bombarding Earth with radiation from the biggest solar storm in more than six years with more to come from the fast-moving eruption.
The solar flare occurred at about 11 p.m. EST (0400 GMT) Sunday and will hit Earth with three different effects at three different times. The biggest issue is radiation, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administrationís Space Weather Prediction Center in Colorado.
The radiation is mostly a concern for satellite disruptions and astronauts in space. It can cause communication problems for polar-travelling airplanes, said space weather centre physicist Doug Biesecker.
Radiation from Sundayís flare arrived at Earth an hour later and will likely continue through Wednesday. Levels are considered strong but other storms have been more severe. There are two higher levels of radiation on NOAAís storm scale -- severe and extreme -- Biesecker said. Still, this storm is the strongest for radiation since May 2005.
This handout image provided by NASA, taken Sunday night, Jan. 22, 2012, shows a solar flare erupting on the Sunís northeastern hemisphere. NASA
The radiation -- in the form of protons -- came flying out of the sun at 93 million miles per hour. (150 million kph)
"The whole volume of space between here and Jupiter is just filled with protons and you just donít get rid of them like that," Biesecker said. Thatís why the effects will stick around for a couple days.
NASAís flight surgeons and solar experts examined the solar flareís expected effects and decided that the six astronauts on the International Space Station do not have to do anything to protect themselves from the radiation, spokesman Rob Navias said.
A solar eruption is followed by a one-two-three punch, said Antti Pulkkinen, a physicist at NASAís Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland and Catholic University.
First comes electromagnetic radiation, followed by radiation in the form of protons.
Then, finally the coronal mass ejection -- thatís the plasma from the sun itself -- hits. Usually that travels at about 1 or 2 million miles per hour, (1.6 or 3.2 million kph) but this storm is particularly speedy and is shooting out at 4 million miles per hour, Biesecker said.
Itís the plasma that causes much of the noticeable problems on Earth, such as electrical grid outages. In 1989, a solar storm caused a massive blackout in Quebec. It can also pull the northern lights farther south.
But this coronal mass ejection seems likely to be only moderate, with a chance for becoming strong, Biesecker said. The worst of the storm is likely to go north of Earth.
And unlike last October, when a freak solar storm caused auroras to be seen as far south as could see an aurora but not until Tuesday evening, he said.
For the past several years the sun had been quiet, almost too quiet. Part of that was the normal calm part of the sunís 11-year cycle of activity. Last year, scientists started to speculate that the sun was going into an unusually quiet cycle that seems to happen maybe once a century or so.
Now that super-quiet cycle does not seem as likely, Biesecker said.
Scientists watching the sun with a new NASA satellite launched in 2010 -- during the sunís quiet period -- are excited.
"We havenít had anything like this for a number of years," Pulkkinen said. "Itís kind of special."
"Report from NOAA/NWS Space Weather Prediction Center : "The strongest Solar Radiation Storm since September, 2005 is in progress and continues to get stronger and a very fast Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) is headed towards Earth."
Tylenol can kill you; new warning admits popular painkiller causes liver damage, death 2013 12 06 It has been a common household name in over-the-counter pain relief for more than 50 years. But the popular painkiller drug Tylenol is getting a major labeling makeover following a string of personal injury lawsuits. According to the Associated Press (AP), so many Tylenol users these days are suffering major liver damage or dying that the drugís manufacturer, McNeil Consumer ...
New Report: Unregulated Contaminants Common in Drinking Water 2013 12 05 Traces of 18 unregulated chemicals were found in drinking water from more than one-third of U.S. water utilities in a nationwide sampling, according to new, unpublished research by federal scientists. Included are 11 perfluorinated chemicals, an herbicide, two solvents, caffeine, an antibacterial compound, a metal and an antidepressant.
Researchers from the U.S. Geological Survey and the Environmental Protection Agency analyzed ...
Unarmed man charged with assault after cops shoot at him but wound bystanders instead 2013 12 05 A grand jury indicted an unarmed, emotionally disturbed man on assault charges after police opened fire on him near New York Cityís Times Square and wounded two bystanders.
Investigators said 35-year-old Glenn Broadnax, of Brooklyn, created a disturbance Sept. 14 by lurching into traffic and lunging toward oncoming cars.
Police arrived as a crowd gathered at 42nd Street and Eighth Avenue and ...
The Kardashian 2013 Christmas Card: A Tribute to the Illuminati Entertainment Industry 2013 12 05 If there was an award for the less Christmas-y Christmas card in the History of the world, I believe that the 2013 Kardashian Christmas card would take the prize. Shot by elite fashion photographer David Lachapelle, the card is a rather grim and depressing summation of the entertainment world Ė an industry ruled by a shadowy elite that is turning ...
Oldest-ever human DNA found in 400,000-year-old ĎPit of Bonesí poses evolutionary mystery 2013 12 05
Scientists have reached farther back than ever into the ancestry of humans to recover and analyze DNA, using a bone found in Spain thatís estimated to be 400,000 years old. So far, the achievement has provided more questions than answers about our ancient forerunners.
The feat surpasses the previous age record of about 100,000 years for genetic material recovered from members ...