Yesterday the sun unleashed a big X-class solar flare, aimed directly at Earth. Today the NOAA has issued a couple of interesting alerts related to the incoming geomagnetic storm expected from the flare, indicating:
- Power system irregularities are possible.
- GPS navigation may be affected by loss-of-lock
- We may be able to see aurora as far south as Pennsylvania, Iowa and Oregon.
A slightly more recent alert says that an “enhancement in the energetic portion of the solar radiation spectrum may indicate increased biological risk to astronauts or passengers and crew in high latitude, high altitude flights.” There may also be “increased risk to all satellite systems.”
Make no mistake, there’s no reason to actually expect massive planetwide electric doom from the storm, but it’s worth noting that the Great Solar Storm of 1859 (also called the Carrington Super Flare), which struck a far less networked, electronic planet, was nevertheless a real sonofabitch on the few systems in place at the time. Aurorae were seen in areas that never normally witness the phenomenon and telegraph operators reported electric shocks and sparks flying from telegraph poles. Weirdly, some telegraphs even continued sending messages even after their power was shut off.
Don’t fly, buy paper maps and don’t rely on satellites for a day or so, you’ll be fine. Also don’t be an astronaut.