Back-to-back CME hits can bring INTENSE solar storm to Earth today; Blackouts to GPS disruption, Know what to expect

Forecasters have predicted that at least two CME clouds are going to hit the Earth today, April 21. This event can bring a dangerous solar storm to Earth as the overall magnetic charge doubles over.

| Updated on: Apr 21 2023, 09:42 IST
Think you know our Sun? Check out THESE 5 stunning facts
1/5 The Sun is the largest object in our solar system and is a 4.5 billion-year-old star – a hot glowing ball of hydrogen and helium at the center of the solar system. It is about 93 million miles (150 million kilometers) from Earth, and without its energy, life as we know it could not exist here on our home planet. (Pixabay)
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2/5 The Sun’s volume would need 1.3 million Earths to fill it. Its gravity holds the solar system together, keeping everything from the biggest planets to the smallest bits of debris in orbit around it. The hottest part of the Sun is its core, where temperatures top 27 million degrees Fahrenheit (15 million degrees Celsius). The Sun’s activity, from its powerful eruptions to the steady stream of charged particles it sends out, influences the nature of space throughout the solar system. (NASA)
3/5 According to NASA, measuring a “day” on the Sun is complicated because of the way it rotates. It doesn't spin as a single, solid ball. This is because the Sun’s surface isn't solid like Earth's. Instead, the Sun is made of super-hot, electrically charged gas called plasma. This plasma rotates at different speeds on different parts of the Sun. At its equator, the Sun completes one rotation in 25 Earth days. At its poles, the Sun rotates once on its axis every 36 Earth days. (NASA)
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4/5 Above the Sun’s surface are its thin chromosphere and the huge corona (crown). This is where we see features such as solar prominences, flares, and coronal mass ejections. The latter two are giant explosions of energy and particles that can reach Earth. (Pixabay)
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5/5 The Sun doesn’t have moons, but eight planets orbit it, at least five dwarf planets, tens of thousands of asteroids, and perhaps three trillion comets and icy bodies. Also, several spacecraft are currently investigating the Sun including Parker Solar Probe, STEREO, Solar Orbiter, SOHO, Solar Dynamics Observatory, Hinode, IRIS, and Wind. (Pixabay)
Solar Storm
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Know the dangers of the solar storm that is about to hit the Earth today, April 21. (Pixabay)

The coronal mass ejection (CME) cloud which was predicted to hit the Earth yesterday never arrived on time. Instead, a new forecast has revealed that it is likely to strike our planet today, April 21. But this delayed movement of the cloud has now created a complication for us. As per the UK Met Office forecasters, there is a second slow-moving but wide CME cloud which is just behind the first one. And now, both of them can strike the Earth together and create a more powerful solar storm. Further, it also remains to be seen whether other solar disturbances such as any solar flare eruption or fast-moving solar wind's presence can further intensify the incoming storm.

Space weather physicist Tamitha Skov responded through a tweet explaining her understanding of this entire situation. She said, “Not sure about narrower, but faster is a distinct possibility. There is also a real chance this could be a composite event with several ICMEs back to back. Perhaps an earlier slow CME (solar storm) has been slammed into and accelerated by the faster CME launched on April 16”.

A dangerous solar storm can strike the Earth today

Put simply, what could have been two separate solar storm events with minor G1-class geomagnetic storms, is now going to combine together and create a much more intense storm. And as explained, the addition of a flare eruption or solar winds can only further complicate matters.

As such, it is not possible to say how strong the incoming solar storm can be. But, many fear that given the right circumstances, the overall impact can be quite strong. It should be noted that a powerful solar storm can potentially damage satellites, break down mobile networks and internet services, cause power grid failures, and corrupt sensitive ground-based electronics.

NOAA's DSCOVR satellite's role in solar storm monitoring

NOAA monitors solar storms and Sun's behavior using its DSCOVR satellite which became operational in 2016. The recovered data is then run through the Space Weather Prediction Center and the final analysis is prepared. The different measurements are done on temperature, speed, density, degree of orientation, and frequency of the solar particles.

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First Published Date: 21 Apr, 09:35 IST