See how there's a glow around the sun?
That's energy leaving the sun, and it happens all the time.
Occasionally, there will be a big blast of that energy. It's called a solar flare, and that's what Dr. Daniel B. Seaton, a scientist at NASA, studies.
Solar flares have the potential to affect us on Earth.
According to Dan, "It can disrupt radio communication for airplanes; it can cause GPS inaccuracies. So, there's actually a lot of effects we feel through our technological systems, and we have to be prepared for them."
But why haven't we heard about this before?
Dan explained that "for the last few years, the sun has been pretty quiet. We haven't seen a whole lot of big outbursts."
But, that is about to change.
NASA just discovered that the sun has started a new phase: a time when the sun has more solar flares than usual.
While it will take some time for the sun to become more active with solar flares, Dan says, "going forward the next couple of years, like 2024, 2025, these events will be a lot more common."
So, what happens if one of these energy bursts off the sun are way, way bigger than usual?
Dan explains "that can damage widescale power grids and cause huge blackouts."
To find out how concerned we should be, 69 News talked to PPL, one of our local power companies.
"We have not had any negative effects on our grid in the past from these, but we are prepared to react if they would happen," said Joseph Nixon, Jr, a communications manager at PPL.
Joe says PPL's smart grid supercomputer technology is ready for solar flares.
"Over the years, we've created new paths of power to get into areas. So, if something happens to the power on one line, we can switch it around and get it into a community into another direction."
PPL's supercomputer smart grid technology has already prevented one million power outages since it was first installed.
Time will tell if our power grids will get a real test from the sun.
By the way, solar flares can create blasts of magnetic energy. When this magnetic energy interacts with Earth's magnetic field, it can lead to the Northern Lights being visible farther south than usual.
While rare, the Northern Lights have been visible in Pennsylvania and New Jersey in the past. They have a faint, green light in our skies: they won't look as nice as the pictures you've seen.
October is the time to see the Northern Lights in our skies.
So, keep your eyes to the sky in October 2024 and 2025, the years NASA expects more solar flares than usual.
If you want to learn more: