While pointed right at the Earth, a massive X1.6-class solar flare erupted Wednesday and blasted electrically charged particles right toward our little corner of the solar system.
Though it shouldn’t have any real effect on human health (unless you're in orbit, then you could get an extra dose of radiation -- FYI, astronauts), the coronal mass ejection caused by the solar storm is serious business when it comes to electronics and how it affects magnetic fields.
Scientists are watching the situation closely, since it will still take a few days for the particles to reach our planet. The sunspot originated from the AR2158 region of the sun, which has been flaring up quite a bit over the past few days. As NBC News notes, the X-Class flare represents the most powerful type of solar blast (bigger than medium M-class flares or the lower-energy A, B or C classes).
Solar flares aren’t terribly uncommon, but what makes this one significant is the fact that it happened while the sun was pointed right at us. Scientists previously noted a blast in the triple-X realm in June, but luckily for us, that one wasn’t aimed at us like a super-powered shotgun.
SpaceWeather.com anticipates the ejection to “deliver a glancing but potent blow to Earth's magnetic field,” noting that it could reach moderate intensity, causing auroras visible across the U.S.’s norther tier states. They also anticipate “a high probability of geomagnetic storms” within the next few days.
So if you live around the Maine, Michigan and Minnesota area, keep an eye on the sky for some auroras causing trouble.