First, the good news: If you live in the northern hemisphere, be prepared to see one kick-ass light show in the skies this weekend.
Now, the bad news: Stock up on batteries and be prepared for power outages.
NASA revealed on Thursday it's captured images of two humongous solar flares emitted by the sun, creating solar storms en route to our planet within a day. Aside from providing some potentially eye-popping northern lights once the ionized particles mix with our atmosphere, the storms could temporarily overpower satellites and disrupt power grids.
The prediction is a result of a double-whammy of sorts. The solar storms are slated to intensify at a time when the earth's magnetic field is disrupted by a phenomenon called equinox cracks. Taking place during spring and vernal equinoxes (roughly around March 20 and Sept. 23 annually), when our planet's equator is in perfect alignment with the middle of the sun, the earth's magnetic field becomes more vulnerable to the solar winds that push those ionized particles from the sun.
That's when power grids and satellites are most prone to breaking down until the storms pass. Fortunately, the atmosphere's molecular infrastructure that triggers those northern lights also prevent us earthlings from turning crispier than pork rinds.
Still, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is predicting that the forthcoming geomagnetic storm is going to be a relatively minor event. They've rated the incoming disturbance as a G1, which is as low as solar storms can get. The super-heavyweight variety normally get a G5 rating.
The organization added another event to the mix, what they call a coronal hole, which could be active during the storms. These are the dark spots on the sun that emit magnetic field lines into space. Depending on where the earth is in its orbit, if those lines hit our planet, they could further open fissures in the magnetic field allowing more particles to pass through. So far, scientists report the coronal holes on the sun are relatively inactive.
Fear not, regardless of the circumstances. If your flatscreen and cable box wind up being on the fritz this weekend, at least you might be able to catch a better show outside. All you have to do is look up.