Camilla the rubber chicken is seen at over 120,000 feet (36,576 m) above California in this NASA handout still image taken from video dated March 3, 2012. During last month’s solar storm a group of students called “Earth to Sky” from Bishop, California, launched a helium balloon which lifted the chicken into space to study solar radiation.
Camilla, which is the mascot of NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, reached the stratosphere along with a payload carrying radiation sensors, cameras, GPS trackers, a thermometer, insects and sunflower seeds.
The flight took two and a half hours and reached an altitude of approximately 40 km (25 miles) before the balloon burst parachuting Camilla’s spacecraft safely back to earth. [REUTERS/NASA/Earth to Sky/Bishop Union High School/Handout]
A strong geomagnetic storm is racing from the Sun toward Earth, and its expected arrival on Thursday could affect power grids, airplane routes and space-based satellite navigation systems, U.S. space weather experts said.
The storm, a big cloud of charged particles flung from the Sun at about 4.5 million miles per hour (7.2 million km per hour), was spawned by a pair of solar flares, scientists said.
This is probably the strongest such event in nearly six years, and is likely more intense than a similar storm in late January, said Joseph Kunches, a space weather specialist at the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
This solar disturbance is a three-stage affair, or as Kunches said in a telephone interview from Boulder, Colorado: “We hit the trifecta.”
Read more: Strong solar storm heading for Earth