Dangerous solar storm strikes Earth; Blackouts feared in southern hemisphere

    Brief interplanetary magnetic field shift near Earth signaled a dangerous solar storm strike to the Earth which affected the arctic circles. Shortwave radio blackouts are expected in the region.

    By: HT TECH
    | Updated on: Jan 19 2023, 12:35 IST
    NASA: From Solar Winds, Solar Flares to CME, check how solar phenomena impact Earth
    Solar storm
    1/5 The harrowing thing is that it will not just be China that would be affected by such a devastating solar storm. (NASA)
    Solar Flare
    2/5 Solar Flares: Solar flares are photon flares emitted from the Sun which travel from the flare site. They are rated on the basis of their intensity with the highest being an X-rated solar flare. It can cause power and radio blackouts and are responsible for the stunning phenomenon known to us as the Northern Lights or Auroras. (NASA/SDO)
    3/5 Coronal Mass Ejections (CME): CMEs are massive plasma clouds carrying photons that are ejected from the Sun. CME occurs during the solar cycle and is at peak in the middle of the cycle. (NASA)
    Coronal Mass Ejection or CME
    4/5 Solar Winds: Solar winds are high speed winds coming from holes in the Sun called Coronal holes. These holes can form anywhere on the surface of the Sun. If these solar winds prevail near the solar equator, they can cause impact on Earth, according to NASA. (Pixabay)
    Solar Particles
    5/5 Solar Energetic Particles: Solar energetic particles are emitted from the Sun during Coronal Mass Ejections. These are charged particles; hence they follow the magnetic field lines between the Sun and the Earth and if they pass the magnetic fields near Earth, they have an impact. (NASA)
    Solar storm
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    A solar storm has hit the Earth in the early hours today, January 19. (Pixabay)

    After the coronal mass ejections (CME) clouds hit the magnetosphere of the Earth and caused an interplanetary magnetic field shift yesterday on January 18, today, a solar storm struck the Earth propelled by the remaining CME particles. The solar storm would have remained undetected if some satellites did not pick up on the IMF disruption. The solar storm struck the southern hemisphere of our planet and caused a brief aurora display in the arctic region. It is also feared that nearby regions might have been hit with shortwave radio blackouts.

    The incident was reported by SpaceWeather.com which noted on its website, “Arriving earlier than expected, a CME struck Earth's magnetic field on Jan. 17th around 2200 UT. Its arrival was signaled by an abrupt shift in the interplanetary magnetic field (IMF) near Earth”. The website also mentioned that the solar storm struck in the early hours of January 19 and it has since subsided.

    Solar storm strikes Earth

    This particular solar storm was predicted earlier by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). But after a part of the CME cloud was carried forward by solar winds and impacted the magnetosphere yesterday, solar astronomers were not sure whether the rest of the cloud would give glancing blows or miss the Earth entirely. However, noting the IMF shift, the solar storm was predicted mere hours before an aurora display was seen in the arctic circles.

    Reports suggest that it was a minor solar storm. But the nearby regions are feared to be affected by a shortwave radio blackout. This frequency of radio waves are generally used by airlines, ships, ham radio operators and drone pilots. But so far, there are no conclusive reports of them being disrupted.

    The solar storm scare is not over, however. One of the largest sunspots to be seen in years, AR3190, is still in Earth's view and if it explodes ahead of time, it can cause a massive solar solar storm that can be as intense as a G5-class solar storm. The last time such a strong solar storm was seen was in 1859 in the Carrington event. Today, such a solar storm can burn and destroy satellites in Earth's lower orbital space and massively disrupt and breakdown wireless communications like shortwave radio transmissions, GPS, mobile network and even internet access. In the worst case scenario, power grids can also be damaged due to such a solar storm.

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    First Published Date: 19 Jan, 12:16 IST
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