Solar flares could impact airline passengers, crew

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x1s2_anim(WTVR) – A relatively big X1-class solar flare erupted from the Sun on January 7.

Those dangerous, high-energy particles will slam into our protective shield (the magnetosphere) today, potentially disrupting satellite and radio communications.

NOAA even warns that “passengers and crew in high-flying aircraft at high latitudes may be exposed to elevated radiation risk” during this solar storm.

This is why a planned rocket launch from Virginia’s Wallops Flight Facility was scrubbed Wednesday. The solar storm could disrupt communications during the launch between the launch vehicle, spacecraft and ground control.

An update from Orbital Sciences Corp on January 8, 2013 is as follows:

“Following a comprehensive review of data related to the radiation environment in space, further reviews and modeling of the rocket’s avionics systems, and the forecast for favorable terrestrial weather conditions at the Wallops Island launch facility, the Antares launch team has decided to proceed forward with a launch attempt of the Orbital-1 CRS mission to the International Space Station tomorrow, January 9 pending overnight close-out of all remaining pre-launch reviews and tests. Upon a deeper examination of the current space weather environment, Orbital’s engineering team, in consultation with NASA, has determined that the risk to launch success is within acceptable limits established at the outset of the Antares program.

Tomorrow’s target launch time is 1:07 p.m. (EST), which would allow the Cygnus spacecraft to rendezvous and berth with the International Space Station early Sunday morning, January 12.”

The rocket will be difficult (or impossible) to spot from central Virginia because of the daylight (and increasing cloud-cover). Night launches are the easiest to spot from inland.

In this video, you can clearly see the energy erupt from the Sun, especially when the video looks “speckled” as high-energy protons swarm the camera like stinging bees.

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