At 6AM et, the Sun kicked out the third largest solar flare in recorded history. The sunspot that kicked it out also happened to be pointing right at the earth at the time.
Scientists have been watching some unusual activity on the sun in the past few weeks as sunspot and flare activity has unexpectedly increased. We are a few years off the normal 11 year solar cycle. It’s kind of like having 3 major hurricanes in March.
This morning’s Solar Flare could pass us with no consequnces, or it could knock out power grids and communications around the world. It depends on the magnetic polarity of the plasma that is shooting towards us. If that polarity matches the earths, it will pass quietly, but if it is opposite, it could cause spectacular consequences.
This flare is much stronger than the one that knocked out the Quebec power grid on March 6, 1989. A stronger flare was recorded on April 2, 1982, but it was pointed away from Earth. The Great Solar Storm of 1859 which knocked out telegraph wires and started fires in the US and Europe, was about 3 times as strong.
Ironically, Bruce Tsurutani of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory released a detailed account of the 1859 “Perfect Space Storm” which was published recently in the Journal of Geophysical Research, warning that another such flare could hit, with even more damaging consequences because of today’s reliance on electronics.
Electricity grid and satellite operators and astronauts onboard the ISS are taking special precautions. The flare is expected to hit earth around noon (est) Wednesday.