(CBS/AP) WASHINGTON – The largest solar storm in five years is racing toward Earth, threatening to unleash a torrent of charged particles that could disrupt power grids, GPS and airplane flights.
The sun erupted Tuesday evening, and the effects should start smacking Earth between Midnight and 4 a.m. CST Thursday, according to forecasters at the federal government’s Space Weather Prediction Center. They say the storm, which started with a massive solar flare, is growing as it speeds outward from the sun.
“It’s hitting us right in the nose,” said Joe Kunches, a scientist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. He called it the sun’s version of “Super Tuesday.”
Scientists say the sun has been relatively quiet for some time. And this storm, while strong, may seem fiercer because Earth has been lulled by several years of weak solar activity.
“This is a good-size event, but not the extreme type,” said Bill Murtagh, program coordinator for the space weather center.
The solar storm is likely to last through Friday morning, but the region that erupted can still send more blasts our way, Kunches said. He said another set of active sunspots is ready to aim at Earth right after this.
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