A solar eruption that hit Earth this morning could lead to small geomagnetic storms lasting for days, scientists have warned.
The coronal mass ejection (CME) delivered a “lightning blow” to our planet at 00:37 ET (4:37 BST) on Wednesday.
Experts predict that the effects of the CME, including power outages, could be felt in the coming hours.
CMEs are large clouds of energetic and highly magnetized plasma that erupt from the sun.
She can be activated when a storm on the sun’s surface creates a whirlwind at the base of plasma loops projecting from the surface.
These loops are called prominences, and when they become unstable, they can break, sending the CME into space.
Today’s eruption was the result of a particularly slow-moving solar flare recorded on Monday, which lasted eight hours and caused temporary radio interference over Japan and Southeast Asia.
Above – NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory captured a photo of a prolonged solar flare on June 13, 2022. This lasted eight hours and caused radio interference over Japan and Southeast Asia. Below – A view of the CME as it erupted from the sun as a result of the solar flare. This was captured by the outermost LASCO C3 coronagraph aboard the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO). The white circle in the center indicates the position and size of the sun
WHAT ARE CORONAL MASS EJECTIONS?
Coronal mass ejections (CMEs) are large clouds of energetic and highly magnetized plasma that erupt from the sun
These clouds can erupt in any direction and then continue in that direction, plowing by solar wind
These clouds only cause an impact on the earth if they are aimed at the earth
They are usually much slower than solar flares because they move a greater amount of matter
CMEs can be activated when a storm on the sun’s surface creates a whirlwind at the base of plasma loops projecting from the surface
These loops are called prominences and when they become unstable they can break, sending the CME into space
Astronomers at SpaceWeather.com captured the explosion of the growing sunspot AR3032 at 00:07 ET (04:07 BST) Monday.
The explosion set off a solar flare that lasted nearly eight hours from start to finish, and was… registered as an M3.4, putting it in the ‘average’ class of solar eruptions.
The extreme ultraviolet radiation from the blast ionized the top of our atmosphere, leading to: temporary radio interference over Japan and Southeast Asia.
Coronagraphs aboard the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) also recorded a CME thrown into space by this solar flare in the early morning hours.
Analysts at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicted that it could present “a lightning strike to our planet’s magnetosphere.”
Spaceweather.com has since confirmed that the CME hit Earth’s magnetic field on June 15 at 00:37 ET (4:37 BST).
An update on their site said, “In the next few hours, storms could occur as Earth penetrate the dense, magnetized flank of the CME.”
Minor G1-class storms are likely, with a chance of moderate G2 early this morning, according to the MetOffice.
Geomagnetic activity should decrease later in the day, but the arrival of a rapid solar wind flow in the early morning could bring activity back to G1 storm levels.
A small storm can confuse migrating animals that depend on the Earth’s magnetic field for their sense of direction.
Moderate storms can cause voltage fluctuations and can even lead to power outages or damage to appliances and electrical wiring.
Satellites and other spacecraft are also at high risk of damage from elevated levels of radiation.
MetOffice also said any auroras occurring as a result of the CME are likely confined to higher latitudes and would have reached Scotland in the early hours of this morning.
However, the short hours of darkness meant that aurora sightings would be limited, if not impossible.
A solar eruption from the sun could deliver a “slick blow” to Earth, triggering small geomagnetic storms, scientists have warned. Pictured is a photo taken by the Solar Orbiter probe
The sun has been undergoing increased activity for several months, and last month unleashed its most powerful solar flare in five years.
Our star appears to be entering a particularly active period of its 11-year cycle of activity, which began in 2019 and is expected to peak in 2025.
But scientists are concerned that the increased activity of the sun could lead to potentially dangerous solar weather that could damage power grids, disable satellites and damage astronauts and space equipment on the International Space Station.
CMEs only affect the Earth if they are pointed in the direction of our planet, and tend to be much slower than solar flares because they move a greater amount of matter.
Flares and CMEs also have different effects on Earth.
The energy from a flare can disrupt the area of the atmosphere through which radio waves travel, leading to temporary blackouts in navigation and communications signals.
On the other hand, CMEs have the power to displace Earth’s magnetic fields, creating currents that drive particles toward the Earth’s poles.
When these react with oxygen and nitrogen, they help create the aurora, also known as the northern and southern lights.
In addition, the magnetic changes could affect a variety of human technologies, causing GPS coordinates to diverge by several meters and overloading electricity networks when power companies are not prepared.
There has been no extreme CME or solar flare in the modern world — the latest being the Carrington event in 1859 — that triggered a geomagnetic storm with a global aurora, as well as fires at telegraph stations.
SUN STORMS ARE A CLEAR DANGER TO ASTRONAUTS AND CAN DAMAGE THE SATELLITES
solar stormsor solar activity, can be divided into: four main components: that can have consequences on Earth:
- solar flares: A large explosion in the sun’s atmosphere. These flares are made of photons that travel out directly from the flare location. Solar flares only strike the Earth when they occur on the side of the Sun that faces Earth.
- Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs): Large clouds of plasma and magnetic field erupting from the sun. These clouds can erupt in any direction and then continue in that direction, plowing by solar wind. These clouds only cause an impact on the earth if they are aimed at the earth.
- Fast solar wind currents: These come from coronal holes on the sun, which form all over the sun and usually only when they are closer to the solar equator do the winds hit the earth.
- Solar Energy Particles: High-energy charged particles believed to be released primarily by shocks formed at the front of coronal mass ejections and solar flares. When a CME cloud plows through solar wind, solar energetic particles can be produced, and because they are charged, they follow the magnetic field lines between the sun and Earth. Only charged particles that follow magnetic field lines that cross the Earth will have an impact.
While these may seem dangerous, astronauts are not directly at risk from these phenomena due to the relatively low orbit of manned missions.
However, they should be concerned about cumulative exposure during spacewalks.
This photo shows the Sun’s coronal holes in an X-ray. The outer solar atmosphere, the corona, is structured by strong magnetic fields, which, when closed, can cause the atmosphere to suddenly and forcibly release bubbles or tongues of gas and magnetic fields called coronal mass ejections.
The damage caused by solar storms
Solar flares can damage satellites and have enormous financial costs.
The charged particles can also threaten airlines by disrupting the Earth’s magnetic field.
Very large flares can even create currents within power grids and cut off the energy supply.
When coronal mass ejections strike Earth, they cause geomagnetic storms and amplified aurora.
They can disrupt radio waves and GPS coordinates and overload electrical systems.
A large influx of energy can flow into high voltage grids and permanently damage transformers.
This could shut down businesses and homes around the world.
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