Solar storm expected to hit Earth on Saturday
The aurora borealis is seen over the Midwest.
July 13th, 2012
02:50 PM ET

Solar storm expected to hit Earth on Saturday

The French could get a magnificent light show for Bastille Day this weekend thanks to a geomagnetic storm due to hit Earth on Saturday, a U.S. government scientist said.

The storm can generate auroras: waving, colorful lights that appear in the sky.

Joe Kunches, a space scientist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said the auroras may be seen along the U.S.-Canada border and in northern Europe on Saturday night. They are common farther north, like the Northern Lights, but magnetic storms like this one can make them appear in lower latitudes, he said.

"The auroras are probably going to be more bright and more equator-ward," Kunches said.

Robert Leamon, a heliophysics scientist at NASA headquarters, said the most notable lights will appear on the night side of the Earth when the storm arrives.

"It might last into Saturday so you see something in the U.S. or Europe, but if you lived in Siberia, say, you'd probably get the best showing," he said.

According to NOAA's scale for geomagnetic storms, the storm heading for Earth - rated low, at a G1 or G2 on a scale of one to five - could be mildly problematic for high-latitude power systems or high-frequency radios.

Leamon said some personal Global Positioning System devices, such as his running watch, might be a little slow or briefly lose connections.

Kunches explained that the burst of energy heading for Earth is called a coronal mass ejection, which means that some of the outer layer of the sun - called the corona - was blown off by Thursday's solar flare.

"The corona got blown off. It's like the roof got blown off the house because you were having a great party or something," he said.

The storm is expected to reach Earth around 9 a.m. ET on Saturday and continue to affect the planet's magnetic field through Sunday.

As odd as the event may seem, Kunches said this storm isn't out of the ordinary.

"This is the time the sun should be doing this," he said. "We're in the middle of the cycle - not necessarily the peak - but we're close to it."

The sun has an 11-year solar cycle, he said, and this cycle's activity should reach its maximum in 2013 or 2014.

Given that the storm doesn't pose a threat, Kunches is excited about its arrival.

"It's wonderful from a scientific point of view," he said. "Its got some properties that are impossible for us to discern until it gets on top of us."

Post by:
Filed under: In Space • the Sun
soundoff (77 Responses)
  1. Cisco Aironet

    I do accept as true with all of the concepts you've offered on your post. They're really convincing and will certainly work. Nonetheless, the posts are too quick for starters. May just you please prolong them a little from next time? Thanks for the post.

    November 20, 2012 at 7:50 pm |
  2. tamu

    i have tickets to fly to my countrey.what can i do?i'm nervious.i'm with newborn baby :(((

    September 15, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
  3. $tillRun!n1@Ya.Com

    And thats how babies are made....I'm glad we had this talk.

    July 15, 2012 at 11:23 am |
  4. Jim

    The Lord and Saviour Jesus H. Christ will save us with his warm and coppery-smelling blood.

    July 14, 2012 at 11:15 pm |
  5. evolved one

    This will be a once in a lifetime event for those folks who live further south in the contiguous U.S. states.....here is hoping that my friends, many who have never seen borealis, get to see this display.

    July 14, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
  6. Angelina

    Wow! It started raining her in Louisville, KY My power almost went out but that's just a regular storm no worries there. But what I'm concerned about is POPULATION CONTROL!!!! Some people are right there not gonna tells us much cause they no that the world will lose it everybody will be going crazy even though the rich got there bunkers to go to, they even got bunkers you can order over the phone for your back yard. But this is REVELATIONS just a lot of us will never understand that. I thought the stone down south says we suppose to remain a population of 500,000,000 people.

    July 14, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
    • Jeff

      you're talking about the georgia guidestones, which state that earth needs to have a max of 500,000,000 people, and which is also the new world order's plan. think about it. it just means killing 80-90% of the population, that's all. yep, the people that control our planet are sick. not sure what that has to do with the solar discharges but i wouldn't be surprised in they set off an EMP over the US, shutting down all power and bring us back into the stone age, and blamed it on the sun.

      July 14, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
      • Zaechariah

        Did you get that scenario from a video game or something? I don't understand how you guys can believe this stuff. First of all Angelina, prove that Revelations has any sort of factuality and is relative to this scientifically understood phenomena then your argument wouldn't make me laugh. Who are these people that control the planet you speak of? Do you have any evidence besides "I heard this, I was told that." Natural laws rule this planet if anything, and I have seen an aversion to intellectualism and critical thinking grow over the years, and i'm sorry to say, but you are my evidence of this.

        July 14, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
      • ScienceGeek -

        There's a New World order stone with that inscription on it. Something about we pledge to reduce the world population by 90% It's somewhere in America [where else?] Does anyone know where it is – I forget.

        July 14, 2012 at 8:21 pm |
      • stickshift33

        Perfect excuse to cover up another HAARP experiement....will this result in another "natural" disaster....time will tell....

        July 20, 2012 at 9:46 am |
    • evolved one

      Huh?

      July 14, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
    • evolved one

      Conspiracy a-go-go.....BTW a little English lesson for you honey - Their, They're, There........do I have to use each one in a sentence to make it clearer for you?

      July 14, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
    • Maimouna

      Posted on If you still aren't sold on Dance, it's about The Super Young Team from Final Crisis, which has the following rtesor:Most Excellent SuperbatBig Atomic Lantern BoyWell Spoken Sonic Lightning FlashShiny Happy AquazonShy Crazy Lolita CanaryThat is all.

      August 2, 2012 at 9:48 pm |
  7. Sarah

    That green light... can it turn people into zombies?

    July 14, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
    • Angelina

      Uh! No why would you think it would turn us into zombies sorry not possible that probably would come from experiment from someone who wouldn't no what there doing.

      July 14, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
  8. Prof Fitzwizzle

    The moon is hollow.
    Its a space station.
    You earthlings are gunea pigs.
    Silly humans.
    Zap !

    July 14, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
    • evolved one

      Your theory is at least entertaining.....hehehe

      July 14, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
  9. Black Betty

    Its the voodoo i tells ya.

    July 14, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
  10. J

    An article about solar activity somehow turns into a political debate? You guys have issues!!!

    July 14, 2012 at 11:40 am |
  11. Blue Skies

    "The corona got blown off. It's like the roof got blown off the house because you were having a great party or something," "

    "Sir, can I see your credentials?"

    End scene.

    July 14, 2012 at 11:37 am |
  12. freshnewblog

    What is this all about? I really do not understand it.

    July 14, 2012 at 10:32 am |
    • evolved one

      HAHAHAHAHAAHAAHAHAHAHAH.......fairy tales and riddles. And you say you study Criminal Justice? Goddess help us.....please.

      July 14, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
  13. 0rangeW3dge

    Oh yeah, I also heard on the radio that Martha's Green is being invaded by Martians too. You might want to look into that when you get a chance.

    July 14, 2012 at 8:44 am |
  14. 0rangeW3dge

    It's 2012, all you gotta do is rent the movie. Maybe you don't remember Close Encounters either, but it happened, right there in Wyoming.
    This is real, People...go get a boat made in China, right now.

    July 14, 2012 at 8:42 am |
  15. Abbey

    Will we be able to see the lights in NE ohio at all?

    July 14, 2012 at 7:25 am |
  16. Rod

    Seriously people? "Have they told us anything???" Solar storms happen. Not really that big of a deal. EXTREMELY unlikely your cooking from the inside out (honestly I kind of hope you are) nor is the sky changing colors which would be pretty cool but it's not. Alot of people sound like their call-ins to a Coast-to-Coast show talking about, "scientists are opening inter-dimensional gates at CERN".

    July 14, 2012 at 6:55 am |
  17. stp

    so is Apollo 18 for real

    July 14, 2012 at 5:35 am |
  18. Anthony Theory

    I know that the government has told us not to worry.....why have we seen two military helicopters and one fighter plan flying low over the freeway system over the last few days. Tonight all of the dogs in the neighborhood are restless. Constantly barking and whining. All of the neighborhood stray cats have left for the fields and the trees. We didn't see or hear one bird all afternoon. Every home on the block is running their AC at full blast but I feel warm inside, like I'm cooking from the inside out. Are they telling us everything?

    July 14, 2012 at 4:50 am |
    • Aldo4343

      You feel warm inside? Maybe you're pregnant?

      July 14, 2012 at 5:30 am |
    • stp

      No they wont tell you everything but I hope your concern turns out to be just another day. I do feel like something is about to give in this country though.

      July 14, 2012 at 6:02 am |
    • Oh boy crazies!

      Nope, they aren't telling us anything. We are being microwaved by our government at a ridiculous pace... Why do you think all the planes are flying in and out of your local airport so very often? Get out your foil hat man, it's going to get worse before it gets better!

      July 14, 2012 at 8:26 am |
    • Professor

      Tin foil hats will do that. Take yours off and soak your head under water for about 10 minutes and all your problems will fade away.

      July 14, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
    • abdullah fathi

      am I the only one that finds it hard to take someone serious when they are leaving messages that look like something a 14yr old would text to a friend? It probably is just me but I find it difficult to take someone seriously when they do the whole r instead of are type thing. Is it really that difficult to just spell out the word?

      July 14, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
  19. Jessica

    I live in Northern Kentucky and I kept thinking that the sky looked purple at around 9pm. It was very cloudy out, so I wonder if it could have had to do with this. The sky doesn't typically look purple to me.

    July 14, 2012 at 4:27 am |
    • A

      Doubtful it was this solar storm, but I saw a purple sky once in the evening too many years back. It was one of the most bizarre things I've ever seen. Street lights that were normally yellow looked green, too. It was also cloudy. I looked up as much optical phenomenon as I could (I'm a meteorologist, so I have a little bit of knowledge of that subject) but couldn't find an explanation. It must've been some combination of low sun angle (just after sunset) and preferential scattering by the clouds/aerosols, but I'm not sure exactly how.

      July 14, 2012 at 9:06 am |
  20. bongole john

    What is solar stom and how is going to hit the earth.

    July 14, 2012 at 1:20 am |
    • Caihlyn

      Solar storm is the term used to describe the eruption of ionized particles from the sun's surface. As these magnetically charged particles are blasted off into space, earth might be in line to receive them. Our magneto-sphere is good protection, but if the storm is strong enough, it could mess up our electronics.

      July 14, 2012 at 9:57 am |
  21. Ya'coub Anini

    I have a scientific explanation of this phenomenon: It is due to solar tidal effect caused by the exact alignment
    of the earth and venus during and shortly after venus transit that take place on June 6th of last month.

    July 14, 2012 at 1:02 am |
  22. Emigdio

    oh great, another day of messed up electronics.

    July 13, 2012 at 11:22 pm |
  23. Jan Tony Francisco Xp

    The Sun blew it's roof off !? What do you mean the Sun blew it's roof off !? Marshmellows anyone?

    July 13, 2012 at 10:57 pm |
  24. Elizabeth

    I love the science, but these aren't significant events. If there is a "big one," it would be nice to know (so we can move our computers into a cage, and that includes all cars because of the computers in them). And most of the U.S. can't see the pretty lights; it would be nice local news in Alaska.

    But mostly, there is little reporting of earthquakes and volcanoes around the world, even though these affect weather and air traffic too, more than any but the biggest CMEs. And vehicle accidents are so ho-hum that they often do not make local news, but more people die every day in vehicle accidents than in wars, and at least the statistics should be aired. Maybe some businesses do not want these statistics aired though.

    July 13, 2012 at 10:29 pm |
  25. Armageddon Watch

    This may be the kind of event that's a catch 22. Its kind of like slowing down to look at a fender bender. Its the class 4-5 event that worries me. That would make any disaster we have seen so far look like a fender bender. Then again, maybe frying all the electronics in this world for a while may be better for humanity in the long run. Like the saying goes "if I knew then what I know now". Maybe we need to return to the 19th century for a while and give ourselves a 2nd chance. Our technology grew up faster than our mentality has, and if we're not collectively careful we will be the first intelligent species to destroy itself ! Sometimes I think other creatures with far less intelligence make better decisions than we do. It all starts and ends with the decisions we all make everyday. Honestly, I'd rather be tending a field of crops than a field of lazy selfish self destructive subordinates. May God grant us the strength and wisdom to do better. Good luck, God bless and good bye.

    July 13, 2012 at 8:11 pm |
    • No Armageddon

      Actually, AW, we get about a week's worth of G5 geomagnetic storms each eleven years. A class 5 event is no big deal unless you're the cable company that has to clean up after the mess. Typically a G5 means your radio doesn't work for a while.

      Look it up : http://www.swpc.noaa.gov/NOAAscales/

      July 13, 2012 at 9:47 pm |
      • A

        Wow, being rational AND linking to a legitimate scientific organization? I think I like you.

        Btw, thanks of reminding me of that web address. Unfortunately, looks like the K index will stay too low for me to see an aurora tonight.

        July 14, 2012 at 9:09 am |
    • No Armageddon

      Actually, G5-level geomagnetic storms are fairly routine, we get about a weeks' worth of them every cycle.

      The ldea that it would end civilization is, frankly, lunatic paranoia.

      July 13, 2012 at 9:52 pm |
      • Jason Clerk

        Google carrington effect. If a similar solar storm were to hit earth today, it would likely shut down the electronic grid from anywhere from several weeks to several months. No communication, no lights, no running water, supply chains for food and medicine disrupted...you do the math.

        July 14, 2012 at 3:17 am |
      • abdullah fathi

        that depends on your definition of civilization. will the world go on? of course... but 11yrs ago we were not as dependent upon internet and computer technologies so in that sense if a large enough storm hits and messes up satellite signals and possibly some grids on the east coast then yes it could spell trouble for western civilization as most of mankind presently would likely freak out instead of thinking rationally that it will be fixed in a relatively brief amount of time. If there is no effect on the power grid or the internet and there is not widespread electronic malfunctions then we will probably go on without realizing anything happened. It is really more of a waiting game than anything to see how our power grids and satellites respond to it. Think of it like the 2000 scare, yes it is realistic that something might happen in a sense but if we have taken proper precautions there is a possibility of hardly anyone noticing the effects of it

        July 14, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
    • Oh boy crazies!

      Man I love how the crazies crawl out of the woodwork anytime there is any type of astronomical event.
      "Oh noes! Something is happening that has happened thousands of times over the course of history! It's the end of the world!"
      Pfft, all you guys in foil hats should move into the woods and live with the hippies.

      July 14, 2012 at 8:25 am |
      • Shirley

        No way! WE don't want them! hehehe

        July 14, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
    • evolved one

      God? God bless? Right.......now that is a problem humanity needs to deal with - this needy obsession with a paternailistic character of fiction.

      July 14, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
      • Ali

        Sam Posted on absolutely agered it's probably more appropriate to have a Best Idea Executed Across More Than One Channel, Including At Least Two Digital category or if you want to be succinct Most Versatile Idea but you've got me thinking about how best to evaluate integration

        August 3, 2012 at 3:00 am |
  26. TinFoilHat

    What he meant to say was "It's like the roof got blown off the house because someone crossed the streams or something. You should ALWAYS .. no wait .. you should NEVER .. cross the streams!"

    July 13, 2012 at 7:41 pm |
  27. WhiskyTangoFoxtrot

    I'm not worried. I'm already wearing a tin-foil hat to protect me from the CIA mind-readers, space aliens and politicians.

    July 13, 2012 at 6:39 pm |
    • Elizabeth

      I'm not that worried about CIA mind readers, but old grudges and real guns. Tin-foil won't stop those.

      July 13, 2012 at 10:32 pm |
  28. LCB

    Awesome info – thanx CNN for input!

    July 13, 2012 at 6:30 pm |
  29. tjwdh

    Will any place in Oregon be seeing them? Crater Lake did during the mid-June event. We are on the southern coast, Gold Beach.

    July 13, 2012 at 5:39 pm |
    • Dennis

      Turn your telescope north and hope for no fog and you might see it from S.W.Oregon coastline.Not likely to see it,though.

      July 13, 2012 at 10:10 pm |
      • Oscar

        Telescope?? Why would you want to use a telescope to see something covering a large arc of the sky? The main problem to seeing it is that the further north you are, the less darkness you get. And consequently the less likely you are to actually see the show.

        July 14, 2012 at 11:35 am |
  30. Patrick

    Good news! Maybe this will help the drought stricken southwest! :P

    July 13, 2012 at 5:09 pm |
    • TinFoilHat

      Yeah, c'mon solar flare, help us with the drought ... wait, what?

      July 13, 2012 at 7:38 pm |
    • Dennis

      Not likely a geomagnetic storm will have much effect on weather patterns.

      July 13, 2012 at 10:07 pm |
    • Elizabeth

      Wait, the southwest will now have a free MRI, and officially, they won't find any brains.

      July 13, 2012 at 10:33 pm |
    • Brsil

      Only Noah can do that.

      July 14, 2012 at 2:34 pm |
  31. glennrobert

    I have seen aurora near Tamecula Ca. on one occasion. As an amateur astronomer I realized this was not a local event.

    July 13, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
  32. TRose10able

    "The storm is expected to reach Earth around 9 a.m. Saturday"...EDT? GMT??

    July 13, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
    • elandau

      It's Eastern Time. I've adjusted the story to clarify. Thanks for reading!

      Elizabeth Landau, CNN.com

      July 13, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
      • Elizabeth

        For those with special filters, tomorrow should be an interesting day of sun-viewing.
        Our local astronomy club has looked at the sun spots, and also the CMEs at the horizon of the sun. It needs very special equipment, but what a show! We probably won't see much by the evening when the sun goes down, but for those with clear skies, this is the summer to use the special equipment!
        I like any science articles; I just wish there were more.

        July 13, 2012 at 10:40 pm |
  33. Mr. Bones

    "It's like the roof got blown off the house because you were having a great party or something," he said.

    Um, everybody knows you don't BLOW the roof off with party.

    You TEAR the roof.

    Off the sucker.

    July 13, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
    • evolved one

      It is unfortunate that there are many like her out their in the US of A.

      July 14, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
      • evolved one

        Oops....Freudian spelling error.....hahahahaha

        July 14, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
  34. Xen from OH

    Darn it! Another storm. I guess I'll take out my black umbrella.

    July 13, 2012 at 3:32 pm |

Contributors

  • Elizabeth LandauElizabeth Landau
    Writer/Producer
  • Sophia DengoSophia Dengo
    Senior Designer