Solar storm heads toward Earth | News | DW | 07.03.2012
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Solar storm heads toward Earth

A solar storm on its way toward Earth could disrupt satellites, airplane flights and power grids, weather experts have said.

Earth could feel the first effects of the growing solar storm early Thursday, according to meteorologists and scientists at the US weather agency. They said it would be the biggest solar storm to hit the planet in five years.

It is expected to batter Earth from 5:00 UTC Thursday morning.

"Space weather has gotten very interesting over the past 24 hours," said Joseph Kunches, a space weather scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The magnetic storm and its radio emissions could disrupt GPS systems and trip up electrical grids. It has the power to damage satellites. Airplanes would most likely be unable to fly over the North and South Poles due to communication problems and radiation caused by the storm, the scientists said.

The storm was caused by an active area on the Sun, known as 1429, from which a big solar flare emerged on Sunday and began hurtling toward the Earth at a speed of some 6.4 million kilometers per hour.

Scientists said the solar activity was nothing new, though the storm was the strongest since December 2006.

ncy/rc (AP, dapd, AFP)