This is the sun. For a long time, it was sleepy, lying idly in the sky, keeping us warm and cozy here on Earth. Well, now the sun is waking up after its slumber, and it wants us to know. So it’s spitting at us, via a coronal mass ejection. The sun’s surface erupted, sending huge amounts of plasma into space … toward us. For reference in the image above, the eruption is the dark arc near the top of the star, not the bright patch nearer the middle.
But don’t worry, everyone. While the sun can and someday will bring about the apocalypse, this isn’t that moment. There will be pros and cons to this event, which should start as soon as tonight and last into tomorrow. Let’s start with the bad news: Some satellite communications could be disrupted. The good news: Light show! This kind of plasma attack could create a geomagnetic storm, which sounds terrifying, but would really just mean we’d get to see the Northern Lights, except they’d be all over the lower 48 states.
The sun cycles between active and dormant about every 11 years, so this is a perfectly normal, natural occurrence that we have no reason to be ashamed of. But this time, it’s waking up from its absolute minimum activity level ever on record, which leads many to believe we could be in for a crazy maximum. So if you miss the lights this time around, don’t worry. It may happen again, more than we’d like.