Solar wind storm produces just a passing breeze on Earth Most of magnetic energy apparently misses planet

April 11, 1997|By Frank D. Roylance | Frank D. Roylance,SUN STAFF

Except for a huge wave of media attention, the Great Solar Storm of April 1997 has apparently failed to make landfall.

Solar weather watchers had their eyes and orbiting instruments peeled yesterday, looking for signs that the blast of magnetic energy that erupted from the sun Monday morning had swept over Earth.

But there was little to see.

"We have not had any kind of major geophysical response yet," said Dr. Donald J. Michels, head of the coronal physics section at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington.

"My personal feeling is, if we don't see something [by last night], I gotta go think about other things."

At the Space Environment Center in Colorado, Gary Heckman, chief of space environment services, said sentinel satellites did suggest "some enhancement in the density and velocity of the solar wind."

"It's not so strong that we can clearly pick it out, but it does appear to be there," he said.

In early afternoon, the solar wind accelerated from around 600,000 mph to 800,000 mph.

Earth's magnetic field was also compressed slightly by the passing solar wind.

But "there was not much evidence of a shock," he said.

It might have been a "glancing blow" from the solar storm, Heckman said.

It erupted Monday from a region 29 degrees below the sun's equator, so the main force of the storm might have passed well south of the plane in which Earth orbits the sun.

There were no reports of communications satellite failures.

And Dr. Lawrence Zanetti, at the Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Lab in Laurel, found no reports of surges or outages on the nation's electric power grid.

But "we're just coming up on this next solar cycle peak, so we can expect these things to happen in next two to three years," he said.

Pub Date: 4/11/97

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.