Strong solar flares wreak havoc on Earth’s GPS systems

Solar cycles last on average 11 years.

The first peaked at 6:15 a.m. EDT.

Earlier in the day, a representative of LPI RAS announced that the planet was experiencing a severe level-4 geomagnetic storm, with 5 being the worst. Five categories – A, B, C, M and X – are used to rank solar flares based on their intensity.

REUTERS/NASA/GSFC/SDOA long filament of solar material that had been hovering in the Sun’s atmosphere, the corona, erupts out into space. Within the period, two large groups of sunspots accumulated an enormous amount of energy, which was emitted in a series of flares. In spite of the intensive solar activity over the last few days, harmful radiation from a flare can not pass through the atmospheric “shield” of the Earth, NASA’s specialists say.

But it can disturb the atmosphere in the layer where Global Positioning System and communications signals travel, something that NASA said was felt as a high-frequency radio blackout, that lasted for about an hour on Wednesday.

Solar flares explode when the magnetic field of the sun twists and reconnects.

Early this week, the sun released a solar flare that shut down communications made via satellite.

Aurora could appear in Hokkaido as a result of disruptions in Earth’s magnetic field, although the phenomenon usually takes place in higher latitude areas such as Alaska or Antarctica, according to the NICT. This is in anticipation of the arrival of the coronal mass ejection (CME) associated with the X9.3 flare. CMEs are the cause of solar storms that could potentially devastate a modern industrial civilization such as ours. A failure of telegraph systems was observed through Europe and North America in 1859 because of a massive solar storm. If a similar sized storm hit today, it is estimated it could cost around $2 trillion. On the upswing, when the sun reaches its solar maximum, researchers fully expect and await such events, but that’s not the case right now.

Furthermore, the solar cycle that began last December 2008, indicates that activity is slowly heading to the solar minimum, a point where eruptions such as the most recent one become increasingly rare.

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