Solar Flare Eruptions May Disrupt telecommunications : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Saturday March 31 3:06 AM ET Solar Flare Eruptions May Disrupt


BOULDER, Colo. (AP) - Intense storms raging on the sun made the night sky shimmer red and green as far south as Palm Springs, Calif., and could briefly disrupt telecommunications as the storms continue through the weekend, scientists say.

The biggest sunspot cluster seen in at least 10 years has developed on the upper right quarter of the side of the sun visible from Earth, according to satellite readings.

Friday night, the light from solar flares could be seen as far south as Palm Springs and was reported near Sacramento, Calif., as well.

``It has totally lit up the sky. We've had dozens and dozens of calls. People want to know what it is,'' said Bill Seigel, a producer at radio station KESQ in Palm Desert, 115 miles east of Los Angeles. ``Some people thought it was UFOs.''

Anthony Watts, a meteorologist in Chico, Calif., about 170 miles north of San Francisco, said the glow from the coronal mass ejection was interesting, but posed no threat.

``There's no danger, however there is the likelihood that we'll have radio or television interruptions,'' he said.

The sunspot, which is a cooler, darker region on the sun's surface, is caused by a concentration of temporarily distorted magnetic fields. It spawns tremendous eruptions, or flares, into the sun's atmosphere, hurling clouds of electrified gas toward Earth.

The solar activity can produce an aurora in the night sky, typically over northern latitudes. The colorful, shimmering glow occurs when the energetic particles strike the Earth's upper atmosphere.

NASA (news - web sites) scientists said a powerful flare that erupted Thursday rated a class X, the most potent category.

The eruptions triggered a powerful, but brief, blackout Friday on some high-frequency radio channels and low-frequency navigational signals, scientists said. They forecast at least a 30 percent chance of continuing disruptions through Sunday.

In addition to radio disruptions, the charged particles can bombard satellites and orbiting spacecraft and, in rare cases, damage industrial equipment on the ground, including power generators and pipelines

-- Tess (, March 31, 2001

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