A massive solar storm is scheduled to hit Earth tomorrow, colliding with the planet’s magnetic field beginning in the morning and lasting until Sunday. Sounds positively apocalyptic, so should we be worried? Well, scientists aren’t.
Though this weekend’s forecast calls for some solar scorching, scientists are shrugging it off as a minor event, reports Newser. No grid disruptions are expected, but just in case, scientists have notified power grid operators, airlines and other potentially affected parties. “This isn’t the mother of all anything,” said forecaster Joe Kunches at the government’s Space Weather Prediction Center in Boulder, Colo. “We don’t see any ill effects to any systems.”
The storm began rumbling on Thursday, when when the sun shot off a massive solar flare containing a cloud of highly charged particles in the Earth’s direction at an unfathomable 3 million miles per hour, reports the Associated Press. Sounds frightening, but it’s actually the sixth time such a thing has occurred just this year, and none of the previous storms caused any real problems.
Solar storms are capable of causing problems here at home, though. They can cause power blackouts, damage to satellites, and GPS disruptions. High-frequency radio communications can be affected as well, and some airlines reroute flights to avoid the extra radiation brought into the atmosphere from solar flares. In 1989, one such storm fried the power grid in Quebec, Canada, causing 6 million people to lose electricity.
Juha-Pekka Luntama, a space weather expert at the European Space Agency, said utility and navigation operators “will certainly see something but they will probably find ways to deal with any problems” from the incoming storm. This storm is part of the sun’s normal 11-year cycle of solar activity, which is expected to peak next year.
Here’s a pretty cool YouTube video, showing the solar flare/solar storm phenomenon: