Solar Flares Could Hit GPS

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It might be time to review those VOR skills in light of sunspot activity that had the potential to disrupt GPS signals on Friday and Saturday. On Thursday, the sun sent a significant burst of electromagnetic energy toward earth after sunspot 1261 belched three major solar flares. The eruption was rated at three on a scale of five and that's enough to make GPS equipment lose its way. It's particularly hard on high-precision units like WAAS-capable aviation gear. The worst was expected to be over by late Saturday but there could be more solar storms coming.

After a prolonged period of unusual sleepiness, the sun appears to be waking up as it moves to the apex of its 11-year activity cycle. More big flares are possible, even likely, and if they get bigger than those on Thursday they can cause real problems. "In a solar cycle there are perhaps 10 or 20 events of this size," Brian J. Anderson, a research physicist at the Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Lab, told the Baltimore Sun. "This is not a once-in-a-century type of thing. I'd say it's the first really strong one we're seeing out of this solar cycle."

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