New Year’s Eve solar storm could impact GPS

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A powerful solar storm set to slam Earth today will make for stunning views of the Northern Lights just before New Year’s Eve.

Aurora Borealis.

Aurora Borealis.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Weather Prediction Center said the “strong” storm could allow the Northern Lights to dip as far south as Oregon and Illinois.

NOAA classifies solar storms on a scale of one to five (one being the weakest; five being the most severe). Today’s storm is forecast to be a G3 event, meaning it could have the strength to cause fluctuations in some power grids, intermittent radio blackouts in higher latitudes and possible GPS issues.

The storm is the result of a coronal mass ejection — basically a flare of charged protons and electrons — that burst from the sun earlier this week. Once they reach Earth, the particles interact with the planet’s magnetic field to paint the sky in dazzling colors.

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