A solar flare that erupted Tuesday and will likely hit Earth as soon as Thursday could prove to be a nuisance for communications and electrical systems.
SPACE.com reports that the solar storm caused by this month’s massive flare could interfere with satellites in orbit as well as power grids on Earth. What’s more, MSNBC notes that some GPS systems could encounter problems as a result of the solar weather.
Additionally, airplanes flying over the polar ice caps may encounter “communications issues” caused by the flare, Joseph Kunches, a space weather scientist, told SPACE.com.
The sun is going through an “active phase” of its 11-year weather cycle, SPACE.com previously reported. The cycle is supposed to peak in 2013, according to NASA officials.
The sun erupted Tuesday evening, and the effects should start smacking Earth between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. EST Thursday, according to forecasters at the federal government’s Space Weather Prediction Center. They say the storm, which started with a massive solar flare, is growing as it speeds outward from the sun.
"It’s hitting us right in the nose," said Joe Kunches, a scientist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. He called it the sun’s version of "Super Tuesday."
Scientists say the sun has been relatively quiet for some time. And this storm, while strong, may seem fiercer because Earth has been lulled by several years of weak solar activity.
"This is a good-size event, but not the extreme type," said Bill Murtagh, program co-ordinator for the space weather centre.
The solar storm is likely to last through Friday morning, but the region that erupted can still send more blasts our way, Kunches said. He said another set of active sunspots is ready to aim at Earth right after this.
But for now, scientists are waiting to see what happens Thursday when the charged particles hit Earth at 4 million mph.