Last night between 7 pm and 8 pm EST, NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center reported an X5 solar flare, one of the biggest of this incredibly active solar cycle. Solar flares are generally followed by coronal mass ejections (CME) that create a solar wind pushing ionized particles away from the sun where they can be caught by the Earth’s magnetosphere.
Normally solar flares don’t cause any damage; the trapped ionized particles simply get excited and we are left with beautiful aurorae near the poles. However, X class flares are the strongest category of solar flares. A CME cause by an X class flare can trigger planet-wide radio blackouts and long-lasting radiation storms. Large solar storms have been known to disrupt satellites, communication systems and in extreme circumstances they have been known to disrupt grown based technologies and power grids.
NOAA and Spaceweather.com have yet to determine if the CME is headed in the direction of Earth, their best guess at the moment is that it will be a glancing blow on March 8 or 9. As the cloud comes closer, these predictions will become more refined.
Via NASA: Right at midnight UT time the active region 1429 unleashed a powerful X5.4-clas
So if you are out and about the next couple days and your cell phone, GPS, or radio start acting funny, blame the sun!