Our sun erupted with a massive solar flare on Thursday morning, shooting out charged particles into space and directly towards Earth.
NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, which monitors the sun on a constant basis, captured an image of the celestial event:
The coronal mass ejection, which reached its peak at 11:35 a.m EDT on Oct. 28, is now hurtling towards Earth and is likely to cause a geomagnetic storm. It’s expected to make its way to Earth by Oct. 30 or 31, right on time for Halloween festivities.
The flare caused a strong — but temporary — radio blackout across the entire continent of South America, which happened to be the central sunlit area of the planet at the time.
On the positive side of things, the eruption could potentially invigorate the northern lights for the weekend, putting on a spectacular show.
The downside is the possible interference with satellite-based communications. The storm will impact the highest levels of Earth’s atmosphere, which could potentially increase drag on low-orbit spacecraft. The particles can also disrupt satellite orientation, which could then impact functionality on Earth.
High-frequency communications like aviation air-to-ground communications and amateur radio are likely to be affected by the storm. Even services like GPS may be skewed or interrupted.
Solar flares are huge eruptions of radiation, and they’re classified in a letter system. C-class storms are the weakest, M-class storms are moderate and X-class flares are the strongest.
Thursday’s solar flare was an X1 on the scale, meaning in terms of X-class flares, it’s the lowest intensity.
“X-class denotes the most intense flares, while the number provides more information about its strength. An X2 is twice as intense as an X1, an X3 is three times as intense, etc. Flares that are classified X10 or stronger are considered unusually intense,” NASA officials said in a statement.
Don’t worry about humanity, however: the radiation isn’t strong enough to pass through Earth’s atmosphere, so humans on the surface of the planet will go unscathed.
The sun is at the beginning of its current solar activity cycle, which lasts 11 years, according to Space.com. The current cycle, solar cycle 25, began in December 2019.