An 'Extreme' Solar Flare Just Erupted At Earth
It's still unclear whether and to what extent the flare will affect power grids, satellites, or radio transmissions on Earth. But whether it wreaks havoc or not, it will be stunning to behold.
But either way, tomorrow we will be able to see the flare in action, live on the Internet. The Slooh Space Telescope will be transmitting video of the sun from Prescott, Arizona, beginning on Thursday afternoon at 1:00 p.m. EDT."What solar experts fear most," Slooh astronomer Bob Berman said in a statement, "is a recurrence of the huge Coronal Mass Ejection events of 1921 and 1859."
Officials at NOAA's Space Weather Center think this flare may have created a CME, but can't be sure yet or be sure how strong it may be. CMEs are the blast of plasma fired off by very active flares. They can trigger geomagnetic storms on Earth two to three days after erupting from the sun, according to Space.com. They also create spectacular aurora.
According to Berman: "A government-sponsored panel in 2008 estimated that such a solar event today would likely destroy the US electrical grid, inflict a staggering $1 to $2 trillion dollars worth of damage, and require over a year to repair. So it's more than of mere academic interest to monitor and observe these violent events as they unfold. Plus, they're amazing to watch."
One of these dangerously strong solar flares barely missed Earth in 2012 - had it exploded outward from the sun just a week later, it would have cause catastrophic damage to our electrical systems. This time around, the flare "poses no danger to anyone on Earth or the astronauts living aboard the International Space Station," according to Space.com.
But that being said, there could be impacts on high-frequency (HF) radio communications. "Impacts to HF radio communications on the daylight side of Earth are expected to last for more than an hour," according to NOAA's Space Weather website.
As well as watching the solar flare in real time, viewers can ask questions of Slooh's astronomers on Twitter, using the hashtag #Sloohflare, during the broadcast. Watch the livestream here, starting at 1 p.m. EDT on Thursday, September 11. Here's a full list of times to watch around the world.