"Solar Storm Sends Charged Particles Toward Earth"

"The bombardment is expected to reach us Tuesday morning, but the threat to satellites and power grids appears to be low."

"A massive explosion on the sun's surface has triggered the largest solar radiation storm since 2005 and has unleashed a torrent of charged plasma particles toward Earth, though the threat to satellites, power grids and other high-tech hardware is believed to be manageable, scientists said.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration detected a solar flare Sunday night that peaked at 7:59 p.m. Pacific time. NOAA satellites traced the bright flash of X-ray light to an area on the sun's surface known as region 1402 — the same area that had produced a weaker flare Thursday. A coronal mass ejection — which can hurl billions of tons of plasma up to 5 million mph — quickly followed.

Radiation from the explosion arrived at Earth within hours of the flash, said Doug Biesecker, a physicist with NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center in Boulder, Colo. A burst of charged plasma particles is expected to reach Earth by 6 a.m. Tuesday. That charged plasma is traveling uncommonly fast, making the 93-million-mile trip to Earth in about 34 hours, rather than taking two or more days, as is usually the case, Biesecker said."

Amina Khan reports for the Los Angeles Times January 24, 2012.


"The Northern Lights Dance Over Northern England" (AP)

Source: LA Times, 01/24/2012