Biggest Solar Storm in Years Is No Joke

It has been six years since Earth had its last major solar storm. Back in 2005, the Northern Lights were spectacular and Norway, Scotland, and Canada were treated to a show and now they're getting another one. But these solar storms do more than light up the night sky and draw tourists.

This storm is what's known as a proton storm. There is also a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME), which is plasma from the sun itself, impacting us. These CMEs are normal, but proton storms are very rare. Only a couple of dozen happen per solar cycle. And this one is a doozy -- an S3 on a 5-level scale. Though there are measures to take to avoid danger, it could, in fact, be a major nuisance.

So what does that mean for us? It could mean nothing. It could also mean a lot. Here are 5 "scary" things that could happen as the result of this storm:

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  • TV and radio could be affected: It's possible that the flares could interfere with TV and radio waves, though unlikely, according to experts.
  • Your plane might circumvent the North Pole: Many airliners have been avoiding the North Pole routes because they're more exposed to the proton storm, which disrupts High Frequency radio communications. The storm may also create some radiation danger and planes in the area are flying at lower altitudes to avoid being affected. But unless you're planning a trip near the North Pole, this isn't going to affect you.
  • Global Positioning Systems: This will not affect the GPS in your car or anything like that, but high precision GPS equipment for tasks like oil drilling, military, engineering, and mining operations may notice the problems.
  • Astronauts need to stay home: Experts have recommended that astronauts to stay home and avoid space walks, though the .00001 percent of the population this affects is not too concerned.
  • Electrical grid outages: In 1989, a solar storm caused a massive blackout in Quebec and that could, theoretically, happen again. But it isn't super likely.

In fact, experts are saying that for the most part, this could cause more inconveniences than loss of life. And for many, this is likely to be just a spectacular show. If you live up North, try to catch a glimpse! This is one on everyone's bucket list -- see the Aurora Borealis. Lucky you!

Does this scare you?


Image via nick_russill/Flickr 

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