Massive solar flare headed toward Earth

Disruption in communication is possible

BALTIMORE, Md. - The sun has unleashed a violent solar flare Thursday afternoon known as an X-class flare, the most powerful sun flare possible.

NASA and the Space Weather Prediction Center put out an alert Thursday advising that the giant sunspot known as AR1515 had become unstable, unleashing the solar flare directly toward earth.  

Because the flare erupted directly toward Earth, it has sent several waves of charged particles toward our planet bringing the likelihood of a northern lights display Friday night and causing a strong radio blackout for some high-frequency communications systems. 

In the alert announcing the X-class solar flare, SWPC officials said the sun storm could cause a "wide-area blackout" in the high-frequency radio communications.  The best known case of this happening occurred in 1989 in Quebec, Canada.

CMEs unleashed from the sun today were expected to arrive at Earth in the next two days, possibly amping up geomagnetic activity scientist say.

Scientists are still researching the full impact potential of this event however, have noted this event will bring minor impacts over the United States.  The best threat of widespread disruption in communication appears right now to be over higher latitudes.

 Flights may also have to be redirected further south to avoid communication malfunctions similar to the event in January of 2012.  

This type of solar flare are among the strongest to occur on the sun.  Since the flare was directly tilted towards earth it could endanger satellites and interfere with communications signals worldwide.  Flares have also been linked to damage to power system infrastructures across the world.

Should you be worried? 

These events are actually more common then you think.  While this particular event is significant, the worst impacts will occur over higher latitudes.  Depending on the severity of the event, Maryland may experience a few issues with reception, GPS signals, and loss of cell service. 

Here is a look at the best locations to see the northern lights.  

A look at a Massive Solar Flare from NASA

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