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Solar storms can destroy power grids on Earth, satellites in the sky! Why scientists are worried

A massive solar storm can disrupt the power grid and send satellites tumbling! Know about this once in a century event that scientists believe is not too far away.

By: HT TECH
Updated on: Aug 14 2023, 16:52 IST
Sun is reaching its solar maximum and it can generate a massive solar storm that can severely impact the power grids on Earth and satellites above. (SDO/NASA)

As the Sun moves towards the solar maximum gradually, scientists are worrying about a once in a century solar storm that can impact Earth, and humanity, severely. We are now experiencing the most active sun so far and it is generating massive solar storms frequently. The peak of solar activities happens every 11 years when the sun reaches the solar maximum. Normally, these solar storms do not severely impact the Earth, but, occasionally, they get so intense that they can generate strong geomagnetic storms that affect all the electrical infrastructure that humanity has created including the power grid and the satellites. NASA believes that if such a solar storm occurs, it could put the safety and livelihoods of people at risk. Now, it is being feared that such a massive solar storm can happen over the next few years.

Solar storms in coming years

According to a Business Insider report. three dangerous solar events can massively impact Earth’s magnetic field. These events are named solar flares, coronal holes, or coronal mass ejections (CMEs). These solar storms can damage the Earth's ionized layer which protects the planet from dangerous space environment.

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Scientists fear that such an event can happen at any moment especially when the sun’s activity is at its peak. Well into its 11th solar cycle, the sun has the power to generate more dangerous sunspots, CMEs, solar flares, and coronal holes. These massive solar events can create once-in-a-lifetime events that can endanger humanity.

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“The much stronger events don't happen every cycle. But during a maximum of a strong cycle like the one that is coming, it's more likely to get some of those events that cause power outages here on Earth," Business Insider quoted Daniel Verscharen, an associate professor of space and climate physics at University College London, as saying.

As per reports, scientists are more concerned about the next solar cycle as the ongoing sun activity is already causing minor impacts on Earth such as radio blackouts. Right now, the ongoing solar cycle is expected to peak in 2025, and high-latitude areas such as the US, Canada, Sweden, and the UK are more exposed to space weather.

What is a big worry for scientists is that the sun's magnetic fields are pointing southwards and the charged particles it is sending may carry a magnetic charge that's opposite that of the Earth's magnetic field. This makes it easier for the solar particles to break through this Earth's protective shield.

These solar events are not happening just in recent times, it has been going on forever and back in the year 1859, Earth experienced the biggest solar storm ever recorded. It is called the Carrington Event. The solar storm caused strong electrical currents to flow across the telegraph lines, and operators received electric shocks from their equipment. This even caused fires to break out at telegraph stations. More recently, it happened in 1940 when a solar storm made metal wires crackle.

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First Published Date: 14 Aug, 16:25 IST

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