Subscribe to GIZMORAMA
Subscribe to DEAL OF THE DAY

May 14, 2024

Solar Storm Sparks Light Show, Power Grid Concerns

A solar storm is currently captivating the skies, treating spectators to mesmerizing displays of the northern and southern lights in regions where such phenomena are rarely visible. While these celestial light shows are a sight to behold, the solar storm has also caused some disruptions to power grids and communications systems.

Coronal mass ejections, which are massive eruptions of plasma and magnetic field from the Sun's corona, are at the heart of this solar activity. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), these ejections have led to disturbances in power grids, high-frequency communications, and GPS signals.

The spectacle of the auroras has been visible across vast swathes of the United States, reaching as far south as Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi, as reported by NBC News. For those unable to witness the northern lights firsthand, modern technology offers an alternative: using the night sky settings on cell phones to capture these celestial wonders through the lens of a built-in camera.

Brent Gordon, chief of NOAA's Space Weather Services Branch, highlighted the effectiveness of cell phone cameras in capturing the light emitted by the auroras. He suggested that even individuals unable to see the lights with their naked eyes would be amazed at what their cell phone cameras could reveal.

NOAA issued a G5 alert at 8:38 p.m. EDT on Friday, marking the agency's highest alert level for solar storms. This alert, the first of its kind since 2003, signaled potential hazards posed by the storm's radiation to astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS). However, NASA officials have not reported any adverse effects, as the ISS is equipped with a shelter to protect astronauts during such events.

While the solar storm is expected to continue through Sunday and possibly beyond, it is not anticipated to disrupt the scheduled May 17 launch of the Boeing Starliner crew flight test. As scientists and skywatchers alike continue to marvel at the celestial spectacle unfolding above, efforts are underway to mitigate any potential impacts of the solar storm on critical infrastructure and space missions.