(by F. Michael Maloof, WND) -- NASA is warning a new sunspot spewing powerful X-class flares is beginning to rotate to a position directly in line with Earth.
A direct hit on Earth from an X-class flare could cause major disruptions, or even destruction, to the U.S. electrical grid, which already is very vulnerable, as well as to life-sustaining critical infrastructures dependent on the grid to function.
NASA said the warning regarding the sunspot, AR 2151, could last for weeks.
Eruptions that drew the attention of space experts began last Sunday with an M5.6 solar eruption, which is 10 times weaker than an X-class flare.
X-class flares are the most power solar storms. The least intense flare is a C-class, followed by M and finally X.
“Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation,” explained NASA spokeswoman Karen Fox. “Harmful radiation from a flare cannot pass through Earth’s atmosphere to physically affect humans on the ground. However, when intense enough, they can disturb the atmosphere in the layer where GPS and communications signals travel.”
Some of the flares spewing from the sun’s surface can be at least 14 times the size of Earth.
NASA and the National Science Foundation has estimated that if the U.S. sustained a direct hit from an X-class flare, it would cost the nation upwards of $2 trillion in the first year and kill up to 90 percent of the U.S. population due to the lack of services, starvation and disease.
The Defense Department is preparing to harden its systems to defend against an EMP event, whether from a solar flare or nuclear attack. But EMP experts point out DOD relies on the civilian electrical grid, which will remain vulnerable unless action is taken.
The flares from AR 2151 were first detected Sunday by NASA’s powerful Solar Dynamics Observatory and Solar Helospheric Observatory, or SOHO, a joint NASA and European Space Agency activity.
The sun is going through an 11-year cycle, which at its peak is called a solar storm maximum. The current cycle is known as Solar Cycle 24.