Nightly News   |  March 07, 2012

Solar flare speeding toward Earth

The solar storm could cause communication problems, affecting radio and satellite systems. NBC’s Tom Costello reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> last night, while we were on the air covering super tuesday, there was a storm on the surface of the sun . and that energy, those waves are traveling toward us at over 4 million miles an hour right now, which means it could arrive as early as between 1:00 a.m . and 5:00 a.m . eastern time tonight. it could affect a lot of things. past storms like this have knocked out power grids here on earth, attacked communications and gps, and already some commercial airlines have recruit routed flights to avoid interference from hit. tom costello has a look at what we might be in for.

>> reporter: i have been on the folks with noaa. in simple terms the atmosphere around the sun has been blown away, leaving charged particles and magnetic field which are now speeding towards the earth, as you said, 4 million miles per hour. it's been several years since we have had a storm like this. there is the potential it could interfere with power grids , but that likelihood is low. it can also interfere and affect gps systems, and it could cause communication problems affecting radio and satellite systems, especially high-frequency kinds. while it is a good dose of radiation, it's big, not extreme, though. nasa is monitoring it but doesn't feel the need to take any unusual precautions on the orbiting stations. but flights they're rerouting because they want to stay in continuous communication. noaa tells me the peak of the storm could come around 5:00 a.m ., they think. 1:00 and 5:00 a.m . eastern time . but 5:00 a.m . is a good time. they also insist no danger to us on earth other than the communications. brian, it could mean some really incredible northern lights perhaps as far south as the great lakes tonight. back to you.

>> all right. tom costello with the latest from washington. we'll keep an eye on it, obviously.