A series of solar flares blasted waves of radiation and solar plasma toward Earth this week, and the geomagnetic storms that could result have the potential to damage orbiting satellites and disrupt communications on Earth. But the International Space Station is expected to weather the storm just fine.
"There will be no impact to the crew or station operations and no impact to station hardware," NASA spokesman Dan Huot told Space.com in an email. [In Photos: The Sun's Monster X9.3 Solar Flare]
Since Monday (Sept. 4), the sun has emitted five significant solar flares from an active sunspot region labeled AR 2673. Solar flares occur when the sun's magnetic field releases a burst of energy, which can disrupt communication networks and navigation systems on Earth within a matter of minutes.
Along with those flares, two coronal mass ejections (CMEs) have erupted from the same region. CMEs release huge clouds of plasma — charged particles from inside the sun — that take up to three days to reach Earth. When that sea of plasma hits Earth's atmosphere, it can supercharge the northern and southern lights, creating spectacular light shows around Earth's poles.
Although the crew aboard the space station may not experience any of the less favorable effects of the recent solar activity, they will likely see some amazing auroras from space.