Massive solar storm results in magnificent views of Northern Lights; officials warn of possible electronic disruptions

Scientists say that a massive solar storm will lead to communications disruptions across the globe as well as magnificent photographs of the Northern Lights.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issued the first
geomagnetic storm watch in 20 years over the solar flares that began on Wednesday.

NOAA said the flares appear to be associated with a sunspot that is believed to be 16 times the diameter of the Earth. On Friday, the organization said there was evidence of “major disturbance in Earth’s magnetic field,” but by the end of the day, they elevated their projection to G5, the highest for solar storms.

“This is an unusual event,” said NOAA.

“Shooting a magnet out into space.”

The solar eruptions are called coronal mass ejections and send streams of cosmic particles into space that collide with the Earth’s atmosphere.

“Widespread voltage control problems and protective system problems can occur,” read a warning from NOAA. “Some grid systems may experience complete collapse or blackouts. Transformers may experience damage.”

The last solar storm of similar magnitude was documented in Oct. 2003, and it resulted in damaged transformers in South Africa and power outages in Sweden.

While the Northern Lights are sometimes visible in regions of the Earth closer to the northern pole, the size of the solar flares mean the atmospheric marvel could be seen by those as far south as California and Alabama.

The sunspot is so massive that it may be visible to the eye, but experts said people should use eclipse glasses to protect their eyes.

“Essentially the Sun [is] shooting a magnet out into space,” said space weather forecaster Bill Murtagh to Nexstar.

Witnesses are already posting incredible photographs to social media of the natural phenomenon.

“The public should stay properly informed of storm progression,” said NOAA.

The geomagnetic storm begins Friday and runs throughout the weekend.

Here’s more about the solar storm:

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