31 October 2003

Second solar storm hits

A second solar eruption has caused a massive magnetic storm that should reach Earth later today, hot on the heels of a previous eruption that jangled telecommunications and sparked a burst of the Northern Lights.

Fallout from the second eruption at 2048 GMT (1100 AEDT) were expected to reach Earth's atmosphere late today, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said.

The Japanese space agency yesterday reported losing communication with one of its satellites, Kodama, at the beginning of the magnetic storm, the biggest in some 30 years.

The storm erupted from the sun around 1100 GMT (1100 AEDT) Wednesday, firing electronically charged gas straight towards the Earth.

Scientists said the sun's eruptions were significantly stronger than recent blasts, and that the magnetic storm reached the Earth's atmosphere just about 19 hours later.

I'm off to Mittagong tonight. With luck the the second storm might give us another burst of the aurora australis. More seriously, solar storms generate communications failures and one may have knocked out the Qu�bec power grid in 1989. I myself tried to blame a spectacular example of ADHD bumbling on the solar activity yesterday. I wasn't very successful.

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