At around 17:00 UTC (1 pm EDT, 10 am PDT) on July 12, a massive burst of energetic particles leapt from the surface of the Sun, racing toward the Earth. The X1.4 solar flare slammed into the planet’s magnetic field, disrupting radio communication in Europe, says SpaceWeather.com.
The large X-class flare—the most powerful category of solar flare—followed a flurry of activity over the past couple of weeks in which the Sun launched a large number of smaller M-class flares. The large flare was accompanied by a coronal mass ejection, a slower-moving cloud of high energy material, which is expected to hit the Earth on Saturday. This animated image shows the coronal mass ejection expanding out from the surface of the Sun.
Solar researchers expect a moderate geomagnetic storm to follow and strike Earth this weekend, causing satellite glitches, power disruptions and colorful auroras possibly as far south as Washington D.C.
If you do find yourself graced with the dancing lights of the aurorae, make sure you keep your ears open as well as your eyes. According to Space.com, researchers recently discovered that,
The same energetic particles that create the dancing, dazzling northern lights high up in Earth’s atmosphere also produce strange “clapping” noises just 230 feet (70 meters) from the ground…
More from Smithsonian.com: