Geomagnetic Storm to Enhance Northern Lights Today

By Vickie Frantz, Staff Writer
Jan 21, 2012; 8:54 AM ET

A photograph of the M-class solar flare eruption courtesy of

A coronal mass ejection will hit Earth on Saturday as a geomagnetic storm.

A strong solar flare began erupting at 8:42 a.m. EST on Thursday, NASA reported. A coronal mass ejection associated with the flare is moving toward the earth at more than 630 miles per second. It will hit Earth sometime on Saturday.

A solar flare is an explosion that releases energy in the sun’s atmosphere. The energy released is equivalent to tens of millions of hydrogen bombs. A solar wind shock wave is released as a result of the explosion.

The solar wind shock wave will strike the Earth’s magnetic field. This causes a temporary disturbance of the Earth’s magnetosphere called a geomagnetic storm.

During the geomagnetic storm, there could be damage to Earth-orbiting satellites.

A geomagnetic storm caused a temporary loss of electricity in Quebec on March 13,1989. Nearly 6 million people were affected. The low temperature during the outage was 19 degrees and the high was only 34. The electricity was restored about nine hours later.

This type of damage in not common.

On a more positive note, geomagnetic storms are know to enhance the appearance of the Earth’s auroras. There will be an especially colorful display on Saturday.

via Geomagnetic Storm to Enhance Northern Lights Today.


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