According to NASA officials, a powerful solar eruption is expected to shoot a stream of charged particles past planet Earth today around 9 AM EST. The news comes after NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory witnessed a colossal ‘ultraviolet flash’ coming from the sun, which is now reported to be the largest solar radiation storm since 2005. The result of the eruption could disrupt global communications, damage electrical infrastructures, and affect satellites in orbit.
Categorized as an ‘M9-class’ eruption, the storm is just below the most severe type of solar storm — an X-class eruption. Scientists have been monitoring M9-class eruptions, particularly in an area of the sun labeled as sunspot 1402. This area of the sun has been particularly active according to experts, and is the source of the solar storm expected to hit Earth today.
Scientists are fairly certain that the storm will hit tomorrow, also described as a coronal mass ejection (CME):
“There is little doubt that the cloud is heading in the general direction of Earth,” says a Spaceweather update. “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.”
View the image (click for full size) of the CME as witnessed by NASA:
As a result of the oncoming storm, some flights traveling across the earth’s poles are being rerouted. Other issues could also arise from the storm, though many experts cannot say for certain what they may be. As the sun continues to ramp up activity, concerns have begun to grow. Currently in Solar Cycle 24, today’s storm follows a pattern of intensified solar activity that began in 2008. The full effects of the storm will not be fully known until it hits tomorrow at 9 AM EST.