NASA: Powerful solar storm approaching Earth today
A powerful solar storm is headed towards Earth as per NASA and it can potentially affect phone signals, GPS and satellites
After a solar flare incident on the Sun, a massive solar storm is headed towards Earth, as per NASA. The US space agency reported on January 20 that a solar flare was observed near a sunspot named AR2929. Now a resultant solar storm is fast approaching Earth. The solar storm can affect satellites hit communication, even mobile phone connectivity and GPS. If strong enough, it can cause power grid failure resulting in blackouts. However, having said that, the storm has to be powerful enough to do that and this one is not of that high a level.
“Geomagnetic unrest is possible on Jan. 22-23-24 as a series of CMEs delivers glancing blows to Earth's magnetic field,” read a post on Spaceweather.com. The website has issued a warning that today and for the next couple of days, Earth may feel the impact from the solar storm.
Can a solar storm affect mobile phone connections?
The internet uses deep sea fiber optic cables. However, these are mostly immune to solar storms since they carry light and not electric current. But, these long haul cables use an accompanying conductor that connects repeaters in series along the length of these cables. However, a solar storm can impact these conductors and possibly knock them out. If they are damaged enough, they can take months to replace, says a research paper published by Sangeetha Abdu Jyothi of the University of California, Irvine and VMware Research. This also means that the Internet will be knocked out for a long period in many regions on the Earth. Sangeetha Abdu says that the world is totally unprepared for any such solar storm-caused Internet apocalypse. However, the proviso is that the solar storm has to be powerful enough to penetrate the protective magnetic shield that the Earth is enveloped in. Abdu has warned that the chances of that happening is remote, but very much there. Abdu said the chances of a catastrophic solar superstorm happening in the next decade are 1.6-12%
Abdu called it a 'Black swan event'. Such a solar superstorm has happened previously and it is called the Carrington event.
What is a solar storm and how it can affect us
Unlike its name, a solar storm is not really a storm. The term is used to describe the atmospheric effects Earth experiences due to strong electromagnetic events taking place on the Sun. Before a solar storm, always comes a solar flare or coronal mass ejection (CME). The sun releases a huge burst of energy (including UV rays, radio waves and gamma ray radiation and other particles) from its surface. This leads to a strong stream of electrical charge and magnetic fields that rush out in all directions in space at an extremely high speed of even 3 million miles per hour and sometimes, they hit Earth. Over the years NASA has recorded numerous solar storm events hitting Earth.
After a solar storm hits Earth, the resultant effect is usually in the form of auroras, Northern Lights, displayed in the areas nearer to the polar regions. They are seen in locations close to the Arctic region.
The solar storms can also cause varying degrees of damage to satellites which disrupt communications on Earth, causing failures for many systems and operations. Mobile phone networks and GPS are also impacted due to the magnetic fields and radiation. Even power grids become vulnerable to the magnetic fields and in extreme cases they can experience failure.
For instance, in February 2011, a solar storm and CME produced by a strong solar flare disturbed radio communications all over China. The most recent solar storm event on Earth recorded by NASA occurred in 2017 when an X12.9 class solar flare hit Earth and caused a brief radio blackout and damaged satellites.
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