Sun flares will bombard the Earth with radiation Tuesday, a storm expected to be the strongest since May 2005 that could affect communications worldwide and has apocalyptic enthusiasts looking for doomsday signs.
The blast of radiation is expected to reach the Earth at 9 a.m. EST (1400 GMT) Tuesday.
NASA experts predicted at worst the flare could damage satellites, garble GPS systems, sicken astronauts, affect air travel near the North Pole, blow transformers and interrupt the electrical grid. The event could result in a Northern-lights-like visual display as the radiation collides with atmosphere.
The upcoming storm originated from a solar flare recorded at 0359 GMT Monday (10:59 p.m. EST Sunday), according to the website Spaceweather.com.
Officials with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Monday that flights above the North Pole will be rerouted in anticipation of the storm, reported by Fox News.
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There is little doubt that the cloud is heading in the general direction of Earth, Spaceweather.com stated in an alert. A preliminary inspection of SOHO/STEREO imagery suggests that the CME will deliver a strong glancing blow to Earth's magnetic field on Jan. 24-25 as it sails mostly north of our planet.
The flare came from a region of the sun - sunspot 1402 - that has been particularly active in the past few years according to observations from the Solar Dynamics Observatory, the Solar Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO), and the Stereo spacecraft.
Armchair astronomers and conspiracy theorists predicting the end of the world by 2012 have said that solar storms will be part of the apocalypse predicted to occur Dec. 21 in conjunction with the end of the Mayan calendar.
Solar activity has a regular cycle, with peaks approximately every 11 years. Near these activity peaks, solar flares can cause some interruption of satellite communications, although engineers are learning how to build electronics that are protected against most solar storms, NASA wrote on their website. But there is no special risk associated with 2012. The next solar maximum will occur in the 2012-2014 time frame and is predicted to be an average solar cycle, no different than previous cycles throughout history.
That didn't stop apocalypse-anticipators from declaring doomsday.
The website Solar Storm Warning - a collective of people dedicated to spreading the conspiracy that the Earth will end soon - plans to release an updated Solar Storm Survival Guide.
The future guide, if the website is any indication, will give people ways to protect not only electronic equipment from shorting out, but gives dire conspiracy warnings about the collapse of society.
According to the website, the updated guide will allow people to:
Learn how to protect you and your family from prolonged exposure to heavy electromagnetic radiation.
Prevent your home from burning down from electrical overload.
Long term recovery issues that should not be ignored.
The banking system and bank holidays that will lock you out of your money.
However, the site calls itself a group of concerned citizens and much of its conspiracy theories have not panned out and have been disputed by experts at NASA.
The upcoming solar flare may affect satellites, communication and electronics, but is not expected to impact astanouts vulnerable to radiation.
The flight surgeons have reviewed the space weather forecasts for the flare and determined that there are no expected adverse effects or actions required to protect the on-orbit crew, NASA spokesman Kelly Humphries wrote SPACE.com in an email.
The upcoming storm will include protons flying at the Earth at 93 million miles per hour, according to scientists, and is expected to last for a couple of days.
The whole volume of space between here and Jupiter is just filled with protons and you just don't get rid of them like that, Doug Biesecker, physicist with the NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center, told The Associated Press.
Amateur astronomer Richard Christopher Carrington in 1859 recorded the most powerful solar flare to hit the Earth.