solar storm
solar storm

Tomorrow's solar storm to bring blackouts, light show

AN INCREASE in geomagnetic activity has some experts concerned that the solar storm expected to hit Earth tomorrow could wreak havoc - but is it that big a deal?

In the past, large-scale geomagnetic events have disrupted communication satellites and caused blackouts.

According to The Sun, this latest magnetic storm is being described as "minor" by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the NOAA has issued a storm warning via Twitter saying that the storm will be in effect today and tomorrow.

 

"Enhancements in the solar wind" are expected to cause "escalated geomagnetic responses."

The magnetic storm was created last week by an explosion in the Sun's atmosphere known as a solar flare, which caused charged particles from the flare to make their way to Earth.

A model of the sun with surface activity and solar flares. Picture: Supplied
A model of the sun with surface activity and solar flares. Picture: Supplied

The storm's arrival coincides with the formation of 'equinox cracks' in the Earth's magnetic field, which form around the equinoxes on March 20 and September 23 every year.

Geomagnetic storms are rated on a scale of G1 to G5, with the latter being the most extreme.

Solar flare flashes in the edge of the Sun captured on September 10, 2017. Picture: NASA/GSFC/SDO
Solar flare flashes in the edge of the Sun captured on September 10, 2017. Picture: NASA/GSFC/SDO

At their most extreme, geomagnetic storms have been known to cripple satellites and cause massive blackouts.

The strongest geomagnetic storm on record is the Carrington Event in 1859, aimed after Brit astronomer Richard Carrington, which electrified telegraph lines and shocked technicians, setting their papers on fire - it was visible as far as Cuba and Hawaii.

A solar flare that erupted on August 4, 1972, knocked out long-distance communication across some US states, according to NASA.

In March 1989, a powerful geomagnetic storm set off a blackout in Canada that left six million people without electricity for nine hours.

Northern Lights pictured on March 9, 2018, in Utakleiv, northern Norway. Picture: AFP Photo/Oliver Morin
Northern Lights pictured on March 9, 2018, in Utakleiv, northern Norway. Picture: AFP Photo/Oliver Morin

A benefit of solar flares can be enhanced auroras or natural light displays such as the Northern Lights seen in the countries of the Arctic Circle.

There will be a minor uptick in geomagnetic activity over the coming days, resulting in a G1 geostorm - an event that happens around 2,000 times every 11 years.

 

 

This article first appeared in The Sun and is republished with permission.

The entire Earth-facing side of the sun erupted in a tumult of activity on August 1, 2010. Picture: AFP/NASA
The entire Earth-facing side of the sun erupted in a tumult of activity on August 1, 2010. Picture: AFP/NASA

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