NASA prepares for solar storm surge as new research unravels complexity of solar phenomena | Tech News

NASA prepares for solar storm surge as new research unravels complexity of solar phenomena

NASA readies for a looming solar storm, expected to peak in 2024. Recent research reveals insights into diverse solar energetic particles, raising concerns for Earth's technology and space exploration.

| Updated on: Mar 14 2024, 18:16 IST
Solar storm effects: From power grid failures to radio blackouts, know the dangers
Solar Storm
1/5 Geomagnetic storms - The high-speed solar flares spewed out by a solar storm interact with the Earth's electromagnetic field and spark Geomagnetic storms. According to NASA, a geomagnetic storm is a major disturbance of Earth's magnetosphere which occurs when there is a strong exchange of energy from the solar wind in the space above Earth. (Pixabay)
Solar Storm
2/5 Power grid failures - NASA says when solar storms hit Earth, they interact with the planet’s magnetosphere and induce currents in electrical systems. This leaves power grids vulnerable to major blackouts. For this to be possible, the solar storms have to be extremely powerful. (Unsplash)
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3/5 Change bird migration patterns - Solar Storms can also cause a change in the migration patterns of birds, whales and even bees. Since birds rely on the magnetic fields of the Earth for navigation, their migration patterns are affected. (Unsplash)
Solar Storm
4/5 Radio blackouts - One of the major effects of solar storms is Radio blackouts. While the planet's magnetic field acts as a shield and protects it from most of these dangerous solar particles, these do get funnelled towards the poles, where they cause an ionizing effect, effectively absorbing shortwave radio waves and causing a loss of communication. (Unsplash)
Solar Storm
5/5 Auroras - When a Solar Storm hits Earth, it sparks a Geomagnetic storm and the magnetic field lines of the Earth temporarily get disturbed, releasing extremely high magnetic energy. The energy and heat are enough to ionize oxygen present in the upper atmosphere and turn it into blue-green hues of light, which we know as Auroras or Northern lights. (Pexels)
Solar Storm
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NASA prepares for an approaching solar storm, as new research unveils the complex nature of solar events. (Pixabay)

In anticipation of an impending solar storm set to peak by 2025, NASA is intensifying its preparations to mitigate potential impacts on Earth. Recent predictions by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) indicate a revised forecast for Solar Cycle 25, suggesting a stronger-than-expected peak between January and October of 2024.

Solar cycles, recurring roughly every 11 years, mark fluctuations in the Sun's activity, notably evident through sunspots, areas where the magnetic field is exceptionally strong. With the upcoming peak, concerns are mounting regarding the potential consequences for our planet.

Also read: Geomagnetic storm on the cards today due to possible CME impact

Probing the Solar Outburst of April 17, 2021

Historically, solar storms have shown their disruptive capabilities. On April 17, 2021, an extraordinary solar eruption sent a massive cloud of solar material hurtling into space, reaching speeds near that of light. This event, observed by multiple spacecraft at various locations between the Sun and Earth, highlighted the diverse nature of solar energetic particles (SEPs) unleashed during such phenomena.

Led by Nina Dresing from the University of Turku, a team of scientists studied the particles' characteristics and origins. The analysis, published in Astronomy & Astrophysics, revealed that SEPs could pose a threat to technology, including satellites and GPS systems, while humans in space or on polar flight routes might be exposed to harmful radiation.

Also read: NASA's James Webb Space Telescope snaps NGC 604, unlocks some star formation mysteries

Solar Mysteries

Crucially, the research demonstrated that SEPs from this event originated from multiple sources and were propelled in different directions and at varying speeds. The study suggested that electrons and protons, constituting the SEPs, may have distinct origins and accelerations, shedding light on the complexity of solar events.

This discovery underscores the importance of adopting a multi-perspective approach to space exploration. As NASA gears up for future heliophysics missions, including the Geospace Dynamics Constellation, SunRISE, PUNCH, and HelioSwarm, the focus will be on deploying multiple spacecraft to gain a more comprehensive understanding of widespread solar phenomena.

The forthcoming missions, such as MUSE, IMAP, and ESCAPADE, are poised to delve deeper into explosive solar events and particle acceleration within the solar system. As Earth braces for the approaching solar peak, NASA's commitment to advancing our understanding of these celestial events remains paramount in safeguarding both technology and human endeavours.

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First Published Date: 11 Mar, 22:21 IST