A massive explosion on the Sun has sent a solar storm heading straight for Earth, experts have said, which may disrupt communications equipment and power grids when it strikes.
The solar flare registered in the “extreme” band on the scale used by forecasters – a magnitude not seen by observers for a number of years.
Originating from a collection of sunspots right in the centre of our nearest star, it poses a direct threat because “it’s pointed right at us”, according to experts at the Space Weather Prediction Center in Boulder, Colorado.
Observed late on Wednesday, the storm is moving towards Earth at a medium-to-fast rate of about 2.5 million mph (4.02 million kph), said forecaster Tom Berger, meaning the soonest it can arrive is late on Thursday night, UK time (early on Friday in the US).
“There’s been a giant magnetic explosion on the sun,” Berger said. “Because it’s pointed right at us, we’ll at least catch some of the cloud” of highly energized and magnetized plasma that can disrupt Earth’s magnetic sphere, which sometimes leads to temporary power grid problems.