Double Solar Storm THREAT looming for Earth; Can trigger intense aurora display

Two solar storms, also known as coronal mass ejections (CMEs), are partially headed towards Earth. These CMEs have the potential to carry up to a billion tons of plasma consisting of charged particles.

| Updated on: Jul 06 2023, 10:55 IST
Do all solar activities like solar storms, CME, impact Earth? This is what NASA says
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1/5 Sun is a source of energy and a lot of activities keep on happening on the fireball. But can Earth be impacted by solar activities? Before we tell you that, it is important to know what solar activity is? According to NASA, solar flares, coronal mass ejections, high-speed solar wind, and solar energetic particles are all forms of solar activity. All solar activity is driven by the solar magnetic field. (NASA)
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2/5 Solar flares impact Earth only when they occur on the side of the sun facing Earth. Because flares are made of photons, they travel out directly from the flare site, so if we can see the flare, we can be impacted by it. (Pixabay)
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3/5 Coronal mass ejections, also called CMEs, are large clouds of plasma and magnetic field that erupt from the sun. These clouds can erupt in any direction, and then continue on in that direction, plowing right through the solar wind. Only when the cloud is aimed at Earth will the CME hit Earth and therefore cause impacts. (NASA)
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4/5 High-speed solar wind streams come from areas on the sun known as coronal holes. These holes can form anywhere on the sun and usually, only when they are closer to the solar equator, do the winds they produce impact Earth. (NASA)
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5/5 Solar energetic particles are high-energy charged particles, primarily thought to be released by shocks formed at the front of coronal mass ejections and solar flares. When a CME cloud plows through the solar wind, high velocity solar energetic particles can be produced and because they are charged, they must follow the magnetic field lines that pervade the space between the Sun and the Earth. Therefore, only the charged particles that follow magnetic field lines that intersect the Earth will result in impacts. (NASA)
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Solar storm duo to trigger spectacular Earthly auroras this week. (Pixabay)

As the United States celebrated Independence Day on July 4, the Sun put on its own spectacular firework display, heralding the arrival of two solar storms or coronal mass ejections (CMEs). NASA's Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) captured the incoming CME clouds, revealing their partially directed trajectory towards Earth. CMEs consist of charged solar particles and magnetic fields, with some containing up to a billion tons of plasma.

NASA predicts that the impact of these ionised gas ejections, or plasma, will reach Earth by Friday, July 7. When the charged particles within CMEs interact with Earth's magnetic field, or magnetosphere, they can trigger geomagnetic storms, reports These disturbances have the potential to disrupt power grids, communication infrastructure, and satellite-based services like GPS.

Double solar storm to arrive tomorrow

Video of both CMEs captured by SOHO's Large Angle and Spectrometric Coronagraph Experiment (LASCO) was tweeted by space weather physicist Tamitha Skov. Skov referred to the approaching storms as a "double punch" of solar activity and stated that the second storm would catch up to the first, culminating in an impact likely to occur on July 7. Skov also shared NASA model runs created by Chris Stubenrauch, showcasing the CMEs' trajectories and emphasising their potential effects on Earth.

The initial CME, moving at a slower pace, is predicted to arrive before 8 am (EDT) on Friday, primarily heading towards the northeast. The second CME, travelling more rapidly, is expected to have a more direct impact on Earth, veering slightly southward. Its arrival is anticipated in the early hours of July 7. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), these CMEs could generate a G-1 level geomagnetic storm, which is categorised as a modest event capable of generating power grid irregularities and affecting satellite operations.

While the festive fireworks of Independence Day have subsided, the CMEs could produce another spectacular show, this time in the Earth's atmosphere. When charged particles travel along Earth's magnetic field lines within the magnetosphere, they generate vibrant and colourful displays known as auroras. Normally visible only at high latitudes near the poles, these potent CMEs might produce auroras visible at lower mid-latitudes. The NOAA underlines that auroras associated with G-1 geomagnetic storms can frequently be seen in the United States as far south as Michigan and Maine.

As we eagerly await the arrival of these solar storms, their potential impact on our planet's magnetosphere and the stunning auroras they may create captivate the imagination of skywatchers worldwide.

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First Published Date: 06 Jul, 10:39 IST