Geomagnetic storm THREAT! Sun blasts powerful CME towards the Earth | Tech News

Geomagnetic storm THREAT! Sun blasts powerful CME towards the Earth

There is a chance that a powerful geomagnetic storm may hit Earth between January 14-15 as the Sun has blasted a coronal mass ejection towards the planet. Know how it may affect us.

By: HT TECH
| Updated on: Jan 14 2023, 11:32 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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Know all about the threat of a geomagnetic storm on Earth sparked by CME eruptions on the surface of the Sun. (NASA)

After a brief period of quiet this week and narrowly escaping a strong possibility of an X-class solar flare eruption, now the Earth is faced with the prospect of being pummeled by a geomagnetic storm. This particular storm can strike our planet today, January 14, or even January 15. As a result of multiple medium solar flares erupting earlier in the week, a cloud of coronal mass ejections (CME) was released from the surface of the Sun and it is headed in our direction. If it hits us, there could be dire consequences. But will it strike us? Read on to find out.

According to a report by SpaceWeather.com, “Minor G1-class geomagnetic storms are possible on Jan. 14-15 in response to glancing blows from one or more CMEs. The storm clouds were hurled into space by the collective activity of many flares earlier this week”. However, the report also underlined that none of the CMEs are pointed towards the Earth and there is a chance that it may miss us entirely. Things will get clearer as the solar clouds approach closer.

Geomagnetic storm threatens the Earth

If you think geomagnetic storms can only cause aurora light displays, then think again. CME particles carry a huge amount of magnetic energy. And when it strikes the magnetosphere around Earth, it can create massive magnetic flux. This can affect nearby satellites and damage the instruments aboard them. In fact, if it corrupts a satellite's central system, it can even crash.

But the impact of geomagnetic storms is not limited to the upper atmosphere. If a storm is particularly strong (G-5 class), it can damage GPS, impact mobile networks and internet connectivity as well as cause power grid failure. It can also cause malfunctions in our electronic devices. But even if this geomagnetic storm strikes us, the current prediction claims that it will only be of G1-class strength, which should not be very concerning.

How NASA plays a role in monitoring geomagnetic storms

Among many satellites and telescopes observing the Sun currently, one is the NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO). The 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 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: 14 Jan, 11:31 IST
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