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Sparrowhawk
10-27-03, 09:42 PM
Charged particles
stream toward Earth;


http://a799.g.akamai.net/3/799/388/e7ab6b773ded8f/www.msnbc.com/news/2053643.jpg
An enormous solar prominence, visible at the right edge of this image, erupted from the sun on Sunday. The bright spots indicate sunspot activity.

Oct. 27 The sun continued to hurl blobs of charged particles at Earth over the weekend, with a fresh eruption from each of two huge sunspots. Space storms could buffet Earth sometime Tuesday.

THE ACTIVITY followed a pair of flares last week that passed by the planet Friday and Saturday. Despite warnings that communication systems might suffer, no damage was reported to satellites in space or power systems on the ground.
The latest storms are part of a series of energetic coronal mass ejections, in which twisted magnetic fields on the sun cut loose and throw bubbles of superheated gas, called plasma, into space.


http://science.nasa.gov/spaceweather/images2003/27oct03/cme_c3_big.gif



The storms could generate colorful lights, called auroras, at lower latitudes than normal. Auroras are created when solar storms try to penetrate Earth's natural defense -- a magnetic field that extends beyond the atmosphere. Charged particles from the sun getting through the defenses excite oxygen and nitrogen molecules in the air, creating the lights that are normally visible only near the planet's poles and in high-latitude locations like Alaska.

Auroras could be visible the next couple of nights as far south as Maine and Washington state, according to the NASA-affiliated Web siteSpaceWeather.com.

Scientists cannot predict the exact time the storms will pass by.

The coronal mass ejections are generated near sunspots. And after a long quiet spell with few sunspots, the solar surface is now dotted by two of these cool, darker regions. Each is about as big as the planet Jupiter.

It is easy to see sunspots from home with proper,safe viewing techniques. Astronomers suggest projecting the sun's image through binoculars onto a white surface, like paper. Never look directly at the sun, however, either with the naked eye or through binoculars or telescopes; serious eye damage will result.





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