Biggest Solar Storm in Eight Years Now Pummeling Earth
Find out why airplanes are being rerouted, what other risks might exist.
In the early hours on Monday, NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory caught an extreme ultraviolet flash from a solar flare, which was followed by a giant coronal mass ejection, or CME—a cloud of superheated gas and charged particles hurled off the sun.
The cloud headed toward Earth at a speed of about three million miles (4.8 million kilometers) an hour, reaching the planet a mere 35 hours after it had been unleashed.
When CMEs strike Earth, the charged particles pummel our planet's protective magnetic field, causing geomagnetic storms that can trigger brilliant auroras. Sky-watchers in Scandinavia, Alaska, and Canada are already reporting a surge in the northern lights, with the strongest activity expected tonight.