Solar Storm: Get Out Your Camera, Put Away Your Cell Phone

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NASA / SDO / Reuters

A handout picture shows a coronal mass ejection as viewed by the Solar Dynamics Observatory.

Don’t fret, at least too much, about that impending radiation storm set to hit Earth today through tomorrow, the largest such storm to find its way to us since May 2005.

A powerful solar flare called a coronal mass ejection occurred on the sun Sunday night and has sent a burst of radiation in the form of protons toward Earth, possibly fouling up satellite communication and forcing the rerouting of planes near the poles. Even traveling at 1,400 miles per second (2,200 kps), the particles needed a while to cover the 93 million miles (149 million km) that separate the sun from Earth.

(VIDEO: U.S. Skies Get a Rare Glimpse of ‘Northern Lights’)

The 2005 blast was a lot more powerful — and a lot faster too, with the leading edge of the particle storm hitting us in less than an hour. That’s one reason to expect only mild effects from this blast, but that doesn’t mean there will be no danger. A sudden onslaught of storm-related radiation  can potentially disrupt electrical grids, not to mention satellite communication (can you hear me now?).

The strongest flood of radiation may slide north of Earth, but polar-traveling airplanes will likely reroute to skip the  increased radiation and intense communication jamming. NASA notes that “no adverse effects” will fall upon the six astronauts aboard the International Space Station.

Along with the possible issues comes potential beauty. The storm of radiation may send the northern lights a touch south (but likely not as far south as Alabama, as seen during an October solar storm), sending off a new wave reaction: floods of new aurora photos from Tuesday evening’s skies.

PHOTOS: Northern Lights in Norway

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