Severe solar storm strikes Earth

A partial halo Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) was observed early on 15 March 2015 from active region 2297 near the centre of the solar disk. Traveling towards Earth at an estimated speed of ~800 km/s the CME impacted the Earth’s magnetic field and caused a strong geomagnetic storm with a maximum Kp value of 8 observed. The local K-index of Hermanus reached 7 and the Dst index was -228 nT which indicates a strong geomagnetic storm.

This is the strongest geomagnetic storm during the current solar cycle 24 and the largest observed storm since late 2005. SANSA Space Weather Scientist,Teboho Nxele said “this is the longest and most disturbed magnetic period I have observed since 2011.”

SANSA Space Weather Centre issued warnings of possible HF communication blackouts and possible disturbances to navigation systems. SANSA Space Weather Practitioner, Mpho Tshisaphungo siad “HF propagation frequencies are way below expected values due to such a strong geomagnetic storm.”

The sun is a huge ball of boiling gas constantly spitting out massive clouds of charged particles called CME’s. Everynow and then these CME’s are directed towards Earth can can cause a geomagnetic storm. These storms will not harm humans and other life forms on Earth as we are protected by the Earth’s magnetic field, but they can cause disturbances to our satellite communication systems like GPS, radio communications, cell phones and even our power grid.

“It is good to see such great magnetic activity which is happening as expected based on estimates of the CME speed. The current solar cycle has not given us much activity, but now that we are in a declining phase with the sunspots or active regions close to the solar equator, we will be expecting more active conditions like this in the next few years” highlighted Dr Donald Danskin, a Space Weather Expert from the National Resource Centre in Canada.

Updated information on the progress of the storm can be viewed on spaceweather.sansa.org.za

For more information contact
Catherine Webster
Communication Officer,
SANSA Space Science
Email: cwebster@sansa.org.za

Admin_Sansa
mark@artmandesigns.co.za