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“This storm is predicted to be a strong event, but events of this size are not too unusual,” says Dale Gary, Ph.D., professor of physics at New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT).  “We don’t expect to see it cause an unusually large amount of activity on earth. We see an event of this sort happening on the average of once every 30 days or during an 11-year solar cycle, about 200 times.”

WHAT:  The strong geomagnetic space storm expected to hit earth today is of interest to scientists, but will not impact most people.   The primary problem from such a storm—which occur almost monthly—is that airlines need to know in advance so routes flying over polar routes can be changed.  “Particles striking the upper atmosphere can be dangerous to airline passengers traveling polar routes,” says Gary.   The good news is that with the naked eye, ordinary people tonight may see beautiful shimmering light displays called auroras—right after dusk if they look toward the northern sky.  ‘I am going out tonight to look for them in New Jersey with students from NJIT Astronomy Club,” says Gary.

WHERE:  United Astronomy Clubs of New Jersey Observatory, Jenny Jump State Park, Hope, NJ, about 20 miles east of the Delaware Water Gap.

WHEN:  Oct. 24, 2003, 6 p.m., NJIT Astronomy Club members will meet at NJIT flagpole on campus green to carpool to the state park.  If you are interested in joining Gary and club members, contact Sheryl Weinstein at 973-596-3436.

WHY:  This storm has created some interest among scientists and others because of the size and location of a sunspot group—near the center of the sun’s disk, facing earth.  The timing of the storm may make it visible from this afternoon though midnight, especially after dark.

WHO:  Gary directs the Owens Valley Solar Array radio telescope near Big Pine, CA, and is the principle investigator for a design study for a new radio telescope array called the Frequency Agile Solar Radio telescope.  Gary received his B.S. in physics from University of Michigan and his Ph.D. in astrogeophysics from the University of Colorado.  He was at California Institute of Technology for 15 years as a research associate in astrophysics prior to joining NJIT’s faculty in 1997. The author of more than 100 scholarly articles, his research interests include solar and stellar radio physics.