How solar storms can affect technology on Earth | Tech News

How solar storms can affect technology on Earth

We are in solar cycle Cycle 25, heading towards the solar maximum. The Sun will keep spewing out powerful solar storms and these will impact Earth and the technology that humans use.

| Updated on: Jul 24 2023, 21:18 IST
Solar storms that plagued the Earth this week: Massive solar flare eruption, 2 CME strikes, more
Solar storm
1/5 The week began with a minor solar storm incident on Monday, when aurora displays were seen in some high-latitude areas. The solar activity didn't stop there as another new sunspot, AR3363, that appeared to be crackling with solar flares also began moving towards Earth's view. (Pixabay)
Solar storm
2/5 The very next day, the unstable region on Sun began exploding. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory detected a massive M6-class solar flare that kept erupting for a long duration. Reportedly, it released more energy than some X-class flares. This sparked a planet-wide shortwave radio blackout. (Pixabay)
Solar storm
3/5 On Wednesday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) prediction models confirmed that a fast-moving coronal mass ejection (CME) released during the flare eruption, and it was set to deliver a glancing blow to the Earth.  (NASA)
Solar storm
4/5 NOAA declared a 3-day warning for solar storms as it confirmed that yet another CME cloud is also headed for our planet and can impact the magnetosphere on July 22. The first CME was expected to strike on Friday, July 21. (NASA SDO)
Solar storm
5/5 On Friday, the first of two CME struck the Earth, delivering the second minor solar storm for the week. The second CME was expected to strike by July 22 and intensify the first ongoing storm. The resultant effect has been forecasted to even spark a G3-class geomagnetic storm. Now, the weekend appears to be a quiet one, as no further solar activity is expected. But with multiple new sunspots expected to come to the Earth's view over the weekend, the next week can be even more chaotic. (Pixabay)
Solar storm
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Solar activity is driven by solar magnetic field. (NASA)

The Sun is at the centre of all activity in our solar system. So, ever wondered what is solar activity? Well, solar activity includes coronal mass ejections, high-speed solar wind, solar flares and solar energetic particles and they all are driven by the influence of the solar magnetic field. Yes, all of it is powered by our volatile Sun. Interesting, no? So, do you know that these solar activities may also affect the technology spread across the globe and in space by humanity? Yes, these solar storms created by the Sun can have devastating effect on technology on Earth from power grids, Internet to satellites. Yes, even your mobile phone can be affected.

Solar cycle

The Sun undergoes regular cycles of solar activity, lasting approximately 11 years, during which its magnetic field flips. This cycle starts with a "solar minimum," a period of low solar activity, followed by a "solar maximum," when the Sun is at its most active, characterized by extremely powerful sunspots, solar flares, and coronal mass ejections (CMEs).

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What do scientists say about solar activity?

A report from says that scientists have been monitoring these solar cycles since 1755, and we are currently in Cycle 25 and heading towards the solar maximum, expected to peak in 2024-25. This cycle has exceeded initial forecasts.

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Effects of Solar Activity on Earth

According to NASA, solar flares have an impact on Earth when they occur on the side of the sun facing our planet. These flares emit photons, which travel directly from the flare site. Hence, if a flare is visible from Earth, it can potentially affect us.

On the other hand, coronal mass ejections (CMEs) are massive clouds of plasma and magnetic fields that erupt from the sun. Unlike flares, CMEs can erupt in any direction and continue in that path. When a CME reaches Earth it can cause quite an impact on our planet.

Solar maximum: Reason to worry?

Experts predict that Solar Cycle 25 will have moderate intensity, with an estimated 4 to 6 flares per day during the solar maximum.

Impact on Technology

When a solar storm hits Earth's atmosphere, it sparks a Geomagnetic storm. If the solar storm is not very powerful, it can lead to just beautiful auroras being generated on the poles. However, if a strong solar storm impacts Earth, it can send high intensity electrical surges through the powergrid, effectively damaging it and causing blackouts. It can have similar effect on all the undersea cables that carry most our internet and damage crucial elements in it that will take months to repair. The satellites up in the sky too will suffer damage unless they are switched off or protected otherwise.

It all depends on how powerful a solar storm has been created by the Sun and that is why there is so much interest in the solar maximum, which we are gradually approaching.


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First Published Date: 24 Jul, 21:18 IST