Airlines this week diverted a handful of flights on polar routes to avoid communications disruptions from a solar radiation storm that scientists said was the strongest to hit the Earth since 2005.
The geomagnetic storm caused minor disruptions for U.S. airlines, with Delta saying it altered the routes of some Asia-bound flights to more southerly tracks and United Airlines confirming it diverted one flight on Monday because of the storm. American Airlines said it was monitoring the storm’s atmospheric impact.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Monday issued a watch for “a geomagnetic storm associated with a bright flare on the sun.” The coronal mass ejection reached the Earth’s magnetic field on Tuesday, sending energized particles toward the northern part of the planet at about 5 million miles an hour. The resulting solar storm was predicted to continue through Wednesday.
The event threatened “possible impacts to navigation, the power grid and satellites,” NOAA said in a press release. The impact of the solar flare, however, appears to have been minor.
One big benefit of the storm for sky watchers: it caused unusually intense Northern Lights, with the aurora borealis visible at lower latitudes than usual.