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Solar flares: Wonder what effect they have on us?

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  • tygerpurr
    Friday, September 16, 2005 ANCHORAGE, Alaska - A huge sunspot has been blasting Earth with magnetic clouds for weeks, producing some of the most vibrant and
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 16, 2005
      Friday, September 16, 2005

      ANCHORAGE, Alaska - A huge sunspot has been blasting Earth with
      magnetic clouds for weeks, producing some of the most vibrant and
      visible summertime auroras in years, according to NASA scientists.

      Scientists said the magnetic flare-ups from Sunspot 798 may last
      through the weekend.

      "It is a fairly large geomagnetic storm that we've had over the past
      24 hours, and it should continue a little while longer," said aurora
      researcher Dirk Lummerzheim, at the Geophysical Institute at the
      University of Alaska Fairbanks.

      Skywide northern lights have awed Alaskans since last week and
      produced red displays as far south as Arizona. However, current
      forecast maps predict the auroras will not be visible south of
      southern Canada.

      A North Pole photographer who signed e-mail messages as "Santa" posted
      a dazzling picture of a display on Thursday on the Geophysical
      Institute's online aurora forum.

      The shimmering green light came courtesy of Sunspot 798, which sent a
      gusting magnetic cloud hurtling toward Earth at more than a million
      miles per hour.

      Sunspots are planet-sized splotches formed by the sun's roiling
      magnetic field. The sunspots become unstable and explode, producing
      flares and propelling charged particles and radiation into space.

      Sunspot activity can produce a geomagnetic storm that makes regular
      daily auroral activity much more visible than usual.

      Solar scientists say the sun is supposed to be in the quiet phase of
      its 11-year cycle, with sunspot activity close to minimum.

      But the year has so far produced four severe geomagnetic storms and 15
      extreme flares.

      "The sunspots of 2005, while fewer, have done more than their share of
      exploding," said solar physicist David Hathaway, of the National Space
      Science and Technology Center in Huntsville, Ala.

      ---

      On the Net:

      Geophysical Institute: http://www.gi.alaska.edu/

      Photo: http://www.gi.alaska.edu/AuroraAlerts/viewtopic.php?t566
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