The National Weather Service’s Space Weather Prediction Center reported a solar radiation storm has arrived and stated warnings likely will be issued.
Agency personnel stated the storm, also known as a coronal mass ejection, was observed by spacecraft just upstream of Earth at 1:32 p.m. Wednesday. Personnel stated it is too early to know the magnetic structure of the storm, but short-term, high-confidence warnings will be issued as the event plays out.
Thursday afternoon, the storm was at the S2 (moderate) level. The original forecast continued to be for G3 (strong) storm activity Thursday and Friday.
Monitoring space radiation refers to excessive high-energy protons in near-Earth space, often funneled in from space in association with an event on the sun such as the solar flares and associated coronal mass ejections that occurred Wednesday, according to NASA.
Coronal mass ejections are huge bubbles of gas threaded with magnetic field lines ejected from the Sun during a period of several hours. They disrupt the flow of solar wind and produce disturbances that strike the Earth with sometimes catastrophic results. Solar wind streams off the Sun in all directions at speeds up to one million miles per hour.
Near solar maximum, Earth-based observers see an average of two to three solar storms per day, according to NASA. Solar maximum is a normal period of greatest solar activity in the 11-year solar cycle of the Sun.
On Thursday, Orbital Sciences Corp. elected to scrub that day’s launch attempt of an Antares rocket from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, Wallops Island, Va., due to unusually high levels of space radiation. Excess radiation can affect the critical computer systems aboard the launch vehicle, according to NASA.
Solar radiation storms are rated on a five-level scale. S1 (minor) storms have no effects on biological life forms or satellites and minor impacts on high frequency radio in the polar regions. The effects continue to increase, mostly impacting high altitude planes and comunications systems.
Space weather updates are available at www.swpc.noaa.gov.
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