Remember a while back when Ashton Kutcher said that the reason he stays fit is that he thinks the end of days is coming soon? Well, he’s probably benching some extra weight today, as Earth is set to be hit by some pretty massive solar flares!
If you’re imagining huge balls of fire scorching the planet, don’t worry: the flares themselves won’t be reaching Earth. In fact, the flares erupted two days ago. What we will get instead are waves of charged particles and magnetic disturbance from coronal mass ejections, sort of like aftershocks of the big flares.
Depending on the severity of these waves of ions (they range on a scale of severity from “G1″ to “G5″), they can cause anything from electromagnetic interference putting our electronics on the fritz, to satellites being knocked out of their orbits. Airlines are taking extra precautions to avoid any trouble, as flying through this interference could cause problems with on-board equipment.
While those would be severe results (around G4 or G5 severity), we’re much more likely to just see some disrupted electronic and satellite communications and possible damage to the electrical grid… G2-level interference. Already, short-wave radio transmissions are being jammed in China as a result of the disturbances.
The upside to these occurrences is that they— that is, charged particles from the sun interacting with the Earth’s magnetic field— are what make the Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights. So depending on the severity of these waves of charged particles, the Northern Lights could stretch much farther south and be visible to those who normally don’t get to see their beautiful display. In fact, in a level G5 event, the Northern Lights can stretch as far down as Texas!
Maybe Ashton can catch a glimpse while he’s out jogging on Runyon.