Strong solar storm could disrupt communications and produce the northern lights in the United States

Cape Canaveral, Florida — An unusually strong solar storm heading towards Earth could produce the northern lights in the United States this weekend and potentially disrupt power and communications.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) issued a rare geomagnetic storm alert, the first in almost 20 years, which It is expected to become a warning on Friday night, when the effects of the solar flare would reach Earth..

NOAA has already alerted operators of power plants and spacecraft in orbit to take precautions.

“As for the worst situation expected here on Earth, it's hard to say and I wouldn't want to speculate on that,” he said. Shawn Dahl, NOAA space weather forecaster. “However, the severe level is quite extraordinaryit is a very rare event to occur.”

NOAA said that The sun produced strong solar flares starting Wednesday, resulting in five plasma explosions capable of disrupting satellites in orbit and power grids here on Earth. Each eruption, known as a coronal mass ejection, can contain billions of tons of plasma and magnetic field from the Sun's outer atmosphere, or corona.

According to NOAA, The flares appear to be associated with a sunspot that is 16 times the diameter of Earth.

An extreme geomagnetic storm in 2003 knocked out power in Sweden and damaged power transformers in South Africa. The latest storm could produce the northern lights as far south as Alabama and northern California, according to NOAA.

The most intense solar storm in recorded history, in 1859, caused auroras in Central America and possibly even Hawaii. “That's an extreme level event,” Dahl said. “We don't anticipate it,” but it could come close.