SEATTLE — The U.S. government shutdown has broken the links to many federal websites, but a vital source of information about sun storms and their potential effects on Earth remains available.

The website of the Space Weather Prediction Center, an arm of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), will continue to be maintained despite the shutdown, which began at midnight Oct. 1 when the Senate and House failed to agree on a stopgap spending bill. The space weather center is currently tracking the solar fallout from a sun storm eruption earlier this week that is now arriving at Earth.

“Due to the federal government shutdown, and most associated web sites are unavailable,” NOAA officials wrote in an update Oct. 2. “However, because the information this site provides is necessary to protect life and property, it will be updated and maintained during the federal government shutdown.” 

Space Weather Prediction Center researchers monitor solar activity and predict the potential impact of storms such as coronal mass ejections (CMEs), which blast huge clouds of charged particles into space at incredible speeds.

CMEs that hit Earth squarely inject large amounts of energy into the planet’s magnetic field, spawning potentially devastating geomagnetic storms that can disrupt GPS signals, radio communications and power grids for days. The Space Weather Prediction Center’s work helps the operators of spacecraft, power grids and other potentially affected infrastructure prepare for and protect against such impacts.

In addition to the Space Weather Prediction Center website, NOAA is continuing to maintain the National Hurricane Center web portal and several other sites that are considered vital to protecting human life and property.