An unusually potent solar storm has struck Earth, prompting the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to issue a severe geomagnetic storm warning.

This unexpected solar outburst hit earlier than expected on the afternoon of Friday May 10, with effects anticipated to persist through the weekend and potentially into the following week.

NOAA’s alert has urged operators of power plants, spacecraft in orbit, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Weather Prediction Center to take precautionary measures.

The storm’s impact could extend as far south as Alabama and Northern California, potentially resulting in the spectacle of northern lights. However, experts caution that these displays may not be as vibrant as the typical auroras, resembling more like splashes of greenish hues.

NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center scientist Rob Steenburgh emphasized the aurora as a remarkable phenomenon brought by space weather, suggesting that the best views might be captured through phone cameras due to their ability to capture light more effectively than the naked eye.

Mike Bettwy, operations chief for the prediction center, encouraged people to snap photos of the sky, hinting at the possibility of a delightful celestial treat.

While not anticipated to rival the intensity of the historic 1859 solar storm, which led to auroras in central America and Hawaii, the current event still poses risks.

NOAA forecaster Shawn Dahl highlighted potential threats to high-voltage transmission lines for power grids and satellite disruptions, which could impact navigation and communication services on Earth.

Even after the storm subsides, NOAA warns of potential disruptions to GPS signals, although any outages are expected to be short-lived due to the abundance of navigation satellites. The recent surge in solar activity, characterized by strong solar flares since Wednesday, is attributed to a massive sunspot roughly 16 times the diameter of Earth, according to NOAA.

Despite concerns about increased radiation levels, NASA assured that the storm does not pose a significant threat to the astronauts aboard the International Space Station. However, precautions are in place, including potential relocation to a better-shielded area of the station if necessary.

Antti Pulkkinen, director of NASA’s heliophysics science division, noted that sensitive instruments aboard science satellites may be powered down temporarily to avoid damage.

Several sun-focused spacecraft are actively monitoring the unfolding solar activity, providing valuable insights into these celestial phenomena.

Pulkkinen emphasized the importance of such observations in advancing scientific understanding of solar dynamics.