First CME strikes Earth, sparks a RAGING solar storm; second arriving soon

The first of the two expected CME struck the Earth in the late hours yesterday, sparking a solar storm. Now, the second one is expected to hit today, June 21, further intensifying the storm.

| Updated on: Jul 21 2023, 12:41 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)
Solar Storm
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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Know all about the major solar storm event today, July 21. (Pixabay)

Yesterday, it was reported that two separate coronal mass ejections (CME) are set to strike the Earth between July 20-22, and the double solar storm produced as an effect could reach a high intensity. The Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has confirmed that the first of the two CME clouds has struck our planet. As the solar storm rages on, the second CME is also expected to hit within a few hours.

According to a report by, “A CME just hit Earth's magnetic field (July 20th at 1651 UT). This is the first of two CMEs forecasters have been tracking en route to Earth. The second should reach our planet tomorrow, July 21st”. The report also highlighted that the combined effect of these two CMEs can spark an intense geomagnetic storm with high-latitude auroras. In the worst-case scenario, the storm can even reach G3-class intensity.

Solar storm to intensify today

While the exact impact of the first CME strike is not known, the solar storm produced is believed to be a minor one. But that is no reason to rejoice, as the second one may hit at any time. And if additional solar winds also strike the magnetosphere during the same period, the end result may be a major G3-class geomagnetic storm.

Such storms can be potentially dangerous and can damage our technology infrastructure in multiple ways. They can disrupt GPS, hamper mobile networks and the internet, and even cause a massive power outage by corrupting the power grids. Even the electronic devices on Earth are not safe from malfunctioning.

Astronomers are continuing to track the CME to understand its intensity and know whether things can get further complicated than at present.

The role of the NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory

The NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) carries a full suite of instruments to observe the Sun and has been doing so since 2010. It uses three very crucial instruments to collect data from various solar activities. They include the Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager (HMI) which takes high-resolution measurements of the longitudinal and vector magnetic field over the entire visible solar disk, Extreme Ultraviolet Variability Experiment (EVE) which measures the Sun's extreme ultraviolet irradiance, and Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA) which provides continuous full-disk observations of the solar chromosphere and corona in seven extreme ultraviolet (EUV) channels.

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First Published Date: 21 Jul, 11:16 IST