A solar flare struck Earth on Tuesday, and a geomagnetic storm watch was issued by NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center. Though it is not harmful to our planet, the phenomenon will disrupt radio communications, GPS signals, GPS receivers and electric systems, particularly in the Northern Hemisphere.
Tuesday’s event is not an eclipse–thirteen days ago, a similar flare erupted in space and also occurred on Halloween. But this time, a super-duper flare–a rare event when two solar magnetic interactions could trigger disruption, according to NASA–happened Tuesday, a more specific burst of energy in the sun’s upper atmosphere that is not yet considered “normal.”
On Wednesday afternoon, Al Gore tweeted that he is “warning all of us about a potential Space Weather Blazar,” referring to the darker parts of the sky marked with starlike objects in our sky. He also advised viewers to try out the EarthSky Viewer app, which is a great way to watch the sun and see solar flares for yourself.
About a possible Space Weather Blazar heading our way. I’m calling it! Tomorrow is our first warning of this upcoming phenomenon. Learn more about EarthSky Viewer and EarthSky on https://t.co/crU0Y5jKBG pic.twitter.com/XcYIOoqO9r — Al Gore (@algore) September 19, 2018
Catherine J. Stappe, a planetary geophysicist at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, explained to Quartz that solar storms “can have significant effects on electronics and power grids and can affect communications.” These systems are usually resilient, but can be subject to disruption even during an outburst with a very low probability. That said, it’s very rare for a solar storm to reach the strength to disrupt power grid operations or even cause widespread damage or flight disruptions.
NASA released a “Solar Eclipse: The Aftermath” video that chronicles the last time such a display occurred, back in March, and will launch on Oct. 8, the same day as this eclipse. See the video below to learn about all of the technology that goes into producing the spectacle, including chandeliers that feature LEDs to produce a white screen effect, augmented reality glasses, portable lighting, sound systems, interactive displays, and video cameras to capture the event.
This post has been updated to include NASA’s “Solar Eclipse: The Aftermath” video.