The Sun Is In the Middle of a ‘Potentially Historic’ Eruption

This weekend could be packed with GPS interruptions and brilliant auroras.

Charged particles are spilling out of the Sun — and there may be some serious consequences for Earth.

These high-energy showers will first arrive on Friday, and continue until Sunday. At least seven expulsions, called coronal mass ejections, are expected to come our way then. As the particles strike our magnetic field and tickle the upper portions of our atmosphere, they produce what’s known as a geomagnetic storm. The torrent the Sun released on Thursday prompted the first severe geomagnetic storm watch from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in two decades.

“This is an unusual event,” according to NOAA. Clinton Wallace, who heads up NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center, called it “potentially historic.”

NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory took this image of the Sun, revealing a solar flare, on May 10, 2024.


The cascade of charged particles raining down to Earth is coming from a region where sunspots have clustered. They’ve formed an active region about 16 times greater than our planet’s diameter. “Additional activity from this region is still expected,” NOAA officials published in an update released at 11:30 a.m. on Friday.

NOAA also shared that it notified critical infrastructure operators of the severe geomagnetic storm watch. These events can disrupt GPS, communications systems, and voltage control on power grids. The radiation may also pose a risk to astronauts in space; this is more of a risk if they are doing a spacewalk, for example.

But on the bright side, the event will likely trigger spectacular auroras near the poles — and even at lower latitudes. “A severe geomagnetic storm includes the potential for aurora to be seen as far south as Alabama and Northern California,” according to NOAA.

“Severe” isn’t the highest ranking of a geomagnetic storm. There’s another tier above it, called “extreme.” According to NOAA, the last such event, which occurred in 2003, “resulted in power outages in Sweden and damaged power transformers in South Africa.”

The Sun may release more coronal mass ejections as it inches towards its peak in activity, called solar maximum, expected to occur in July 2025.

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