A solar storm is set to hit Earth on Thursday morning. The largest solar storm in five years is expected to cause some disruption as it shakes up the magnetic field and expands the Northern Lights.
The storm was caused by a massive solar flare that occurred earlier in the week. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, the particles racing towards us will be moving at four million mph. According to Bill Murtagh, program coordinator for the federal government's Space Weather Prediction Center, This is a good-size event, but not the extreme type. The last strong solar storm hit Earth in December 2006.
So what could this storm of charged particles mean for planet Earth? While solar storms don't harm people, scientists are expecting this storm to disrupt utility grids, airline flights, satellite networks and GPS services.
Magnetic, radio and radiation emissions may be disrupted by the solar storm. This may cause problems for air crafts, forcing them to reroute flight. GPS signals may also experience outages or less accuracy. According to the BBC, a storm in 1972 knocked out long-distance telephone communication in the state of Illinois.
Noticeable effects of the solar storm were expected to hit between 1:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m. states the Chicago Sun Times. But according to Space Weather Prediction Center forecaster Rob Steenburgh, no effects were noticeable shortly before 5:00 a.m. The news source warns that when the solar storm hits, the effects may be around through Friday morning.
So is the future so bright, I gotta wear shades, you may ask? If the solar storm has a repeat of 1989 then not really. When a strong solar storm hit Quebec in 1989 it knocked out the power grid causing six million people to lose power.
Not all negative outcomes will stem from this solar storm though. Scientists say that the blast of particles may paint colorful auroras farther from the poles than normal. According to scientist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Boulder, Colorado, Joe Kunches, these auroras are probably the treat we get when the sun erupts. Kunches also says that it's possible for the auroras to dip as far south as the Great Lakes.