The largest solar storm the Earth has seen since 2005 is currently battering the planet, forcing planes to be re-routed, causing power fluctuations and playing havoc with the Global Positioning System (GPS). The 2012 solar storm currently smacking the Earth is the result of a massive solar flare that erupted from the sun around 11PM EST on Sunday.

NASA

 The huge solar flare was rated an M-9 class eruption, which is just one level below the most powerful typle, an X-class flare. As a result of the flare, the earth is being bombarded by three waves of a solar storm from the sun. First the planet was hit by electromagnetic radiation, then a flood of protons and, finally, a coronal mass ejection (CME). The CME struck the Earth’s magnetic field on Tuesday at approximately 10AM EST.

“Geomagnetic storms are likely in the hours ahead,” as a result of the solar flare, Spaceweather.com reported. “If it’s dark where you live, go outside and look for auroras.” Auroras have already been reportedly in many places worldwide, including Northern England and Norway. “It’s a minor to moderate storm,” Yihua Zheng, a lead researcher at the Space Weather Center, told SPACE.com. “Probably in the next 10 hours or so, people at high latitudes can see auroras. This could maybe cause communication errors at the polar caps, but the magnetic activities are probably not too strong.”

According the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Space Weather Prediction Center (NOAA), the most significant issue with such a solar storm is the possibility of disruption to satellites, power grids and High Frequency radio communications.

The 2012 solar storm could cause power surges and interference in GPS navigation, radio, TV and telephone signals. Due to this threat, some flights going through the polar region have been re-routed.

“We know that some airlines did not fly the polar routes yesterday,” NOAA physicist Doug Biesecker said in a press statement. Delta is one of them, rerouting flights between Hong Kong and the U.S. that usually fly over the pole.

“We are adjusting the flight pattern of a few of our flights,” Anthony Black, a spokesman for Delta, told FoxNews.com. “We’re flying further south than we would normally fly.”

Delta and other airlines will be keeping a close watch on the solar storm situation and re-route additional planes as needed. While the primary concern with flying planes through the solar radiation is a disruption to communications, there is also an extremely rare possibility of a “proton hitting an electronic component and killing it,” according to Biesecker.

According to NOAA and NASA, the massive solar storm and accompanying radiation does not pose a threat to the astronauts aboard the International Space Station or the people of Earth.



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