Reply by an expert in the 'Comments' section.
- While out in the cosmos....
A heavy-duty solar flare erupted on the surface of the sun midmorning Thursday, and it appeared from early data that a solar storm from the X-class eruption was headed toward Earth.
"It looks to be headed in the Earth's direction," Alex Young of Maryland's Goddard Space Flight Center told the Los Angeles Times in an interview Thursday. But, he noted, that's based on a view from just one of two spacecraft monitoring the sun.
The so-called coronal mass ejection -- a violently released bubble of gas and magnetic fields -- could veer off. Scientists are waiting on more data from spacecraft within the next few hours to pinpoint the speed and severity of the storm.
PHOTOS: Solar flare close-ups
Mike Hapgood, a space weather scientist at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory near Oxford, England, explained coronal mass ejections in a recent interview with The Times:
"Coronal mass ejections are caused when the magnetic field in the sun's atmosphere gets disrupted and then the plasma, the sun's hot ionized gas, erupts and send charged particles into space. Think of it like a hurricane — is it headed toward us or not headed toward us? If we're lucky, it misses us."
The size of the flare is a "reasonable" indicator of the strength and speed of a coronal mass ejection, Young said. Thursday's flare was categorized at X1.4. Among the categories of flares, according to Young, are C, M and X -- which, in general, translate to common, moderate and extreme.
The ejection, traveling at speeds of 1 million to 5 million miles per hour, takes about one to three days to reach Earth, said Young, associate director for science for the heliophysics division at Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.
Solar eruptions like these pose a danger to Earth's technology, as well as any spacecraft and astronauts that lie in their way.
The blast of electromagnetic radiation can cause radio blackouts, Young said, and, in more extreme cases disrupt power.
More and stronger space weather events are likely headed our way in coming days, the scientist said. The sun is nearing a peak in the solar activity cycle.
"Solar activity has a cycle, minimum to maximum to minimum, and it's getting close to the peak of solar maximum," he said, which will occur sometime in 2013 or 2014. It's a cycle of about 11 years.
Hapgood described some of the consequences of a massive solar storm. With power disrupted, the pumps that bring water into homes and pump the sewage away could stall; transportation could grind to a halt without the ability to pump fuel into vehicles; without power, ATMs and credit card machines would freeze up.
Young noted, however, that the likelihood of space weather causing catastrophic problems on Earth was very slim. Solar flares erupt regularly, spewing matter in all directions, usually missing Earth altogether. And power companies and other entities affected by space weather do prepare for possible problems.
"Space weather can have very strong effects on our technology," he said, but it's like living in an earthquake zone or near where hurricanes occur. "You prepare for them, but most people don't spend their day worrying about it."
What's the Sun Up To?http://www.spaceweather.com/
ANOTHER BIG SUNSPOT: As one big sunspot (AR1515) turns away from Earth, another one is turning toward our planet. AR1520, now emerging over the sun's southeastern limb, stretches more than 127,000 km (10 Earth diameters) from end to end (see picture to left).
AR1520 has a 'beta-gamma' magnetic field that harbors energy for M-class solar flares. So far, however, the sunspot's magnetic canopy is crackling with lesser C-flares. The calm before the storm? NOAA forecasters estimate an 80% chance of M-flares during the next 24 hours.
MANY CMEs: During the late hours of July 8th, a series of rapid-fire explosions on the sun propelled three coronal mass ejections (CMEs) into space. The Solar and Heliospheric Observatory recorded their exit (see video here.
Despite the number of eruptions and the breadth of the billowing ejecta, Earth is little affected. All of the clouds appear set to miss our planet. Nevertheless, this flurry of CMEs highlights the currently-high level of solar activity. It is only a matter of time before a significant CME comes our way. Stay tuned for stormy space weather.
If an EMP effect does occur, it is more likely to come from the sun and affect the entire world, than to be caused by a rogue nation's weapon.
Space storm alert: 90 seconds from catastrophe
...Over the last few decades, western civilisations have busily sown the seeds of their own destruction. Our modern way of life, with its reliance on technology, has unwittingly exposed us to an extraordinary danger: plasma balls spewed from the surface of the sun could wipe out our power grids, with catastrophic consequences.
The projections of just how catastrophic make chilling reading. "We're moving closer and closer to the edge of a possible disaster," says Daniel Baker, a space weather expert based at the University of Colorado in Boulder, and chair of the NAS committee responsible for the report.
It is hard to conceive of the sun wiping out a large amount of our hard-earned progress. Nevertheless, it is possible.
- Here in Israel.....
Recent Power Failures due to Malfunction
The Electric Company stresses that it did not initiate the power failures due to user over-consumption, and they were due only to a production unit malfunction. “We got the power back on within 25 minutes.”
Reported 14:03 on 7/12/12
Electric Company went Code Orange
Reported 14:29 on 7/12/12
MK Ariel: Electricity Rationing Inconceivable
Chairman Uri Ariel of the State Control Committee said, Thursday evening, that he will convene an urgent meeting of the committee to discuss the power outages and "situation orange" under which the Israel Electric Company operated on Thursday.
Ariel said, "It is inconceivable in the 21st century that Israel is operating a pattern of austerity in electricity, as in the last of the third world countries. This is a height of a chain of failures in recent years and they must be examined."
Minister Landau: Public can Prevent Power Cuts
Energy and Water Minister Dr Uzi Landau and directors of the electric company held a press conference Thursday morning marking the peak of the campaign to prevent summer power failures.
Minister Landau said, “We have a problem this summer, and we need the help of the public to prevent power failures.” Landau called for energy conservation by avoiding usage of air conditioners, computers and other appliances.