Don't look now, but there's a solar storm coming

Say, did you hear about the big storm coming? No… not the one barreling across the Atlantic toward the North Carolina coast. I’m talking about the really big storm that burst from the sun and started washing over the Earth last night, continuing through later today and this evening. It’s a solar storm and it might be lighting things up in interesting and unusual ways just as Hurrican Florence is beginning to tear up the coast. As I was saying on Twitter this morning, the good news is that it’s possible that people in the lower 48 might have the extremely rare chance to see the northern lights this evening. The bad news is that if the hit is direct enough, the swarm of charged particles could have unwanted effects on satellites and electrical systems. (Daily Mail)

A solar storm that could damage power supplies, affect satellite TVs and trigger auroras is set to slam the Earth’s atmosphere today.

Scientists say that a huge hole has opened up in the sun’s corona, with auroras set to cover swathes of North America and the UK.

Fast moving solar winds are created where the star’s magnetic field opens up into space, captured as vast black regions in satellite imagery.

Charged particles have now made their way out into the solar system and begun to hit the atmosphere of our planet.

In a worst-case scenario, satellites can even be knocked out. Transformers can experience a spike of electrical current that can damage them or even start fires. These are more minor examples of the type of damage that’s feared from a significantly strong electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack on the United States or other industrial nations. But it sounds as if this particular storm won’t come anywhere near those levels so it’s possible you may not notice any disruptions at all. NOAA has rated this as a G2-level solar storm on a scale where a 5 is the worst, much the same as the way we rate the strength of hurricanes.

The plus side will definitely come if we’re able to see the aurora borealis across much of the United States. I’ve only ever seen it once, during a trip to Alaska many years ago and it’s really something. It also gives you a renewed appreciation for the planet’s magnetic shield and how much destruction it prevents from reaching us on the surface of the Earth. Check out the video below for a time-lapse view of the northern lights. It’s a fantastic sight, but seeing it on your computer screen is nothing compared to witnessing it in real life.