Astronomers and Earth scientists say the biggest solar flare in five years is expected to reach Earth today and tomorrow.

After years of relative quiet on our nearest star, solar activity has picked up, resulting in a solar flare astronomers say is the size of the planet Jupiter, and which is the strongest since 2006.

Bob Rutledge, lead forecaster with the National Space Weather Prediction Center, says these solar outbursts have the potential to wreak havoc with earthly communications.

After the initial blast of radiation accompanying the coronal mass ejection (CME) — a huge cloud of charged particles is headed toward Earth and is expected to arrive on Feb. 17-18.  That's today and tomorrow.

Among the many potential disasters this could cause are disturbances in Earth's geomagnetic field that may lead to malfunctioning telecom and GPS satellite equipment.

While forecasters predict this solar flare shouldn't have major impact on our telecommunications infrastructure, they say it's the first evidence of increasing solar activity that's expected to reach its peak around 2013.

via Biggest Solar Flare In Years Headed For Earth « CBS Los Angeles.