A massive eruption on the surface of the sun has forced flights to be diverted over the north pole because of fears of excessive radiation.
The solar storm, which has sent highly energetic particles to earth, is the strongest in almost nine years. It has sent waves travelling at a speed of five million miles an hour, battering the earth's atmosphere and causing dramatic displays of the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) in many parts of the northern hemisphere.
Delta Airlines redirected six flights from flying over the North Pole. Primary concerns include the possibility that solar flares could interrupt a plane's communication and expose passengers to excessive radiation.
Flights affected include those to Hong Kong from the US, which have taken a southerly detour to avoid the worst effects.
Speaking in the Seattle Times, Dough Biesecker, a physicist with NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center, said radiation arrived in the earth's atmosphere within hours of the explosion.
He warned that these storms were expected to become more frequent as a period of peak solar activity approaches next year. The Northern Lights have already given dazzling displays in parts of the UK this week.
"As we ramp up to the solar maximum next year, this sort of storm will become normal," he said.
NASA reports: "In addition to generating stronger than normal displays of earth's auroras (also known as the northern and southern lights), geomagnetic storms aimed directly at our planet can also disrupt satellites in orbit, cause widespread communications interference and damage other electronic infrastructures."
Where to see the Northern Lights
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