ARE WE PAYING ATTENTION?
MASSIVE SOLAR X FLARE
An ultraviolet image from NASA'S Solar Dynamics Observatory on Valentines Day captured what is said to be the largest flare since December 6, 2006.
The X-flare is an intense extreme ultraviolet emission of radiation coming from a sunspot on the surface of the star. Strong flares can have an impact on communication and electronic grids on earth. The British Geological Survey issued a geomagnetic storm warning.
The sunspot that is the source of the flare is reportedly growing rapidly. Already displays of Northern Lights have been seen further south than normal.
Solar flares can affect satellites and satellite navigation systems. A 1972 geomagnetic storm crippled long distance telephone service in the Midwest. In 1989 a solar flare set off a geomagnetic storm that knocked out power to 6 million Canadians.
There is what is called a periodicity of sunspot activity, greater activity every 11 years, and as NASA scientists say the sun is awakening to a new period of greater activity. Some experts believe the greatest geomagnetic storms will come in 2012.
Scientists differ on the seriousness of the likely impact, but the world is more dependent on communication and computer systems and satellite based technology than during the last period of solar storms. There have been calls for the United Nations, an international scientific consortium and leaders of of governments to begin planning possible defensive measures and preparing for what could be massive disruptions.