Originally posted at The Scotsman
Space Storm Set to Hit Earth
By Mark Sage, PA News, in New York
Mobile phones, satellites and electricity grids could be knocked out tonight by a magnetic space storm, weather forecasters warned.
An ejection of magnetic material from the sun will affect earth for between 12 and 18 hours starting at 8pm BST, said Nasa.
Space weather forecasters have alerted power companies about the event and said mobile phone signals could be affected as satellites are hit.
Airline companies have also been warned because the magnetic burst could affect navigational systems.
The storm, rated level three on a scale of one to five, is being caused by a giant sunspot, which is the size of Jupiter and eleven times larger than Earth.
Nasa said: “As a result of associated flares, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts strong geomagnetic storms to hit Earth on Friday with the potential to affect electrical grids and satellite communications.
“One of the largest sunspots of the cycle, it is the size of 11 Earths and has been generating stormy solar activity, hurling clouds of electrified gas towards Earth, producing explosions, or flares, and spawning storms of high-speed particles in space.”
The space agency added: “Sunspots are darker areas on the visible surface of the Sun caused by a concentration of distorted magnetic fields. They are slightly cooler than their surroundings, which make them appear darker.”
The magnetic storm was first detected by space weather forecasters at America’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Larry Combs, a forecaster at the centre, told CNN: “Satellites live and breathe in space – they are very vulnerable to solar activity.
“They affect our banking systems, our TVs and cell phones, all the luxuries of life.”
Many operators would put satellites into a “hibernate” mode when the magnetic storm is at its height, forecasters said.
Space agencies would not allow astronauts to perform space walks during the storm.
The episode could also produce a spectacular display of the Northern Lights.