An intense solar flare centered on the sun on Wednesday was expected to cause radiation problems in the Earth’s upper atmosphere, signaling that geomagnetic storms could take place this Halloween, Sept. 30.
The solar eruption on Wednesday hit a higher activity level than a typical flare but still did not merit a “ring of fire” classification, said Bruce Foster, chief scientist at the Space Weather Prediction Center, and predicted that the storm would probably not cause major disruptions to space-based communication and navigation systems.
The Earth should see a slightly stronger solar flare later on Thursday, and will see two more “grand solar” flares late in the week.
But the increased activity levels are merely signaling that a larger solar storm will likely strike the Earth’s magnetosphere in early October, Foster said.
Scientists look at the magnetic field lines in the sun’s atmosphere and the properties of its magnetic fields to predict events that could affect Earth’s satellites and navigation systems.
According to NASA, Tuesday’s flare was detected by a range of space-based satellites, including the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly and the Solar Dynamics Observatory.
Astronomers said the solar flares have the potential to affect GPS signals and satellites like the U.S. Tracking and Data Relay Satellite system, which is used for satellite communications and a long list of applications including land surveying, industrial mining, financial transactions and weather forecasting.
Foster said it is unlikely that the activity would reach Earth’s magnetic field due to the size of the flare and the larger solar storm, which will come sometime in October. He added that a strong solar storm could cause power blackouts.
Just to be on the safe side, NASA said it would put Earth in a “contact class” eclipse, meaning that the storm would have a “large track” on the sun, which could cause a strong geomagnetic storm.
“Even with a large amount of energy, that’s not enough to cause wide-ranging impacts,” Foster said.