The magnetic field of the eruption cloud and that of the earth are in the opposite direction: this could lead to particularly strong interactions, say solar researchers. Graphic: NASA
After the huge solar flare on Tuesday, the sun threw huge amounts of gas towards the earth on Thursday night. He has never observed two such "shots" in succession, says solar researcher John Kohl in a statement by the Harvard-Smithosonian Center for Astrophysics. What impact the interaction of the two outbreaks will have, has yet to show. The breakout on Tuesday was one of the biggest in the past decades, but has so far done no damage on Earth. That could change if the fast particles of the second outbreak hit the slow particles of the first one still on their way to Earth. "It's like having a fast, fully loaded freight train on a slow train that is just entering the station. And this station is Earth, "explains John Kohl.

This combination could damage satellites, interfere with the radio traffic and even disrupt the power supply. Many electricity suppliers have already responded and reduced their line capacities to absorb unexpected surges. However, people on Earth and even on board aircraft are sufficiently protected by the earth's magnetic field.

In a so-called coronal mass ejection, the sun hurls huge amounts of electrically charged hydrogen atoms into space in a massive explosion. There are also high-energy electrons and protons. The outbreaks also emit X-rays, which move at the speed of light and can be detected by observation satellites. Thus, the particle flow can be predicted with a forewarning time of one to two days.

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Ulrich Dewald

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