Image by NASA/Solar Dynamics Observatory.
Astronomers let out a sigh of relief Thursday as two blasts from the sun’s surface caused only a minor impact here on Earth.
Wired magazine reports that the solar storm was the most powerful in five years and could have messed with satellites and power grids as they hit the atmosphere. But luckily for cell phone users and frequent fliers, our planet's magnetic field helped to weaken the storm.
"All told, it's not a terribly strong event," NOAA physicist Joe Kunches explained at a news conference Thursday. USA Today reports that the solar storm earned the lowest of five possible ratings on a geomagnetic intensity scale.
According to government scientists who tracked the storm, the solar outburst reached Earth's magnetic field shortly after 6 a.m. on the east coast. But while the solar blasts interfered with some radio communications at the poles delaying some flights by 15 minutes or so, the rest of the planet's electronics and communications went unaffected.
There’s a small chance the storm could worsen by Friday, but astronomers don’t seem too worried about that possibility. The most noticeable impact, according to Wired, is that Americans in the Northeast may be able to catch the northern lights out of their usual latitudes.