Star Wars! Solar Bursts Supercharge Earth's Atmosphere



Sporadic radio blackouts are expected to occur in the wake of a massive eruption of solar plasma, technically known as a coronal mass ejection.

NASA captured this solar eruption on March 19, 2011
  • NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory
  • NASA captured this solar eruption on March 19, 2011.

Scientists predicted that fast-moving charged particles could spawn minor or moderate geomagnetic storms at high altitudes, creating colorful aurora bursts among the so-called Northern Lights.

"There's a 20-40 percent chance of geomagnetic storms!" tweeted NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory team today. "If you live at a high latitude, look out for #auroras today."

The sun's recent eruptions have become more of a pattern. After remaining quiet from 2005 through 2010, the sun has spouted off numerous flares and CMEs in 2011. Experts expect such outbursts to continue over the next few years. Solar activity waxes and wanes on an 11-year cycle. The current cycle is known as Solar Cycle 24.


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