WHAT: A major solar flare, possibly the second largest ever recorded, erupted today at 6:30 a.m. The intensity of the flare has sent a space storm careening towards the Earth. If the storm’s magnetic field is in the right direction – opposite that of the earth – it could cause problems when it reaches us Wednesday. It could knock out power grids, upset satellites and disrupt GPS signals. More benignly, if the weather is clear, people who peer into the northern sky on Wednesday night could see a shimmer of lights known as an aurora,” says NJIT physicist Dale Gary. “Our current prediction is that the magnetic field is directed parallel to the earth’s magnetic field, which means the storm should be minimal,” Gary says. “But it’s such a large magnetic cloud that if its direction rotates a small amount southward – opposite the earth’s field - it could be make for a major storm.”
WHO: Gary, Ph.D., professor of physics at NJIT, who observes the sun through the university’s global network of five solar observatories, the most prominent of which is the Big Bear Solar Observatory, in Big Bear Lake, Calif.
WHEN: The solar storm is expected to reach earth Wednesday, October 29.
WHERE: Gary is available for interview either in his NJIT office or by phone: (973) 642-7878. He can also be reached by calling Robert Florida at (973) 596-5203.
BACKGROUND: Gary received his B.S. in physics from University of Michigan and his Ph.D. in astro-geophysics from the University of Colorado. He was at California Institute of Technology for 15 years as a research associate in astrophysics before joining NJIT's faculty in 1997. The author of more than 100 scholarly articles, his research interests include solar and stellar radio physics.