Solar flare to spark geomagnetic storm today on Earth; Internet, power grid threatened by Sun?
- The solar flare is set to spark a geomagnetic storm on Earth and it carries a significant amount of strength. Know if it will hit Internet or electricity infra.
The Sun has shot off a solar flare that is directed straight at the Earth and it carries a significant amount of strength to affect everyone here. The solar flare will spark a geomagnetic storm on Earth and it has the power to knock out both electricity and Internet infra - for months altogether. However, the significance will depend on the strength of the solar flare and the kind of geomagnetic storms it will spark here on Earth.
What is a solar flare?
Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation. Harmful radiation from a solar flare, when intense enough, can disturb the atmosphere in the layer where GPS and communications signals travel.
Geomagnetic storm impact on Internet, Electricity
Importantly, as far as impact on Earth goes, while the geomagnetic storm does carry some threat, there is unlikely to be any effect on the Internet even though power grids may be affected. Even power grid operators have various solutions to avoid a blackout. Satellites too can be saved by scientists by taking timely steps to shut them down before impact by solar storms.
Having said that, if the geomagnetic storm is powerful enough, it will have a significant effect on Earth.
How harmful can the geomagnetic storm be
While the Earth's atmosphere protects us humans from the harmful radiation of a geomagnetic storm, it does not do the same for the electrical and electronic infrastructure that everyone is dependent on nowadays, which includes everything from basic chores, office, schools, hospitals and more. It translates into not having electricity at home and in offices and no Internet either.
This was a X1-class flare and it caused a strong radio blackout centered on South America, the US Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) said.
Is a solar flare just nasty or does it have some positive sides?
Nastiness increases spending on the strength of the solar flare. However, solar flares are not all about boom and doom. They have a positive effect too - they are responsible for the magnificent auroras generated on the poles and this latest one is expected to light up the sky colourfully too.
It will make for great viewing for sky-watchers in the Northern Hemisphere.
"For aurora enthusiasts in the U.S., we are looking at overnight of the 30th into 31st for the best chance to see the aurora,” said William Murtagh, director of the U.S. Space Weather Prediction Center. The aurora or Northern Lights may be visible as far south as New York's Hudson Valley in the US.
Notably the Sun has started a new 11-year cycle of sunspot activity in 2020 that is expected to peak around the year 2025. The increase in activity will see a huge number of solar flares being generated and if they are directed at the Earth, then problems will abound. However, do know that solar flares are of different intensity and only the big ones have the power to destroy the internet and electricity infrastructure on Earth.
How strong is the current geomagnetic storm?
It is quite significant, going by what NASA tweeted on October 29: "POW! The Sun just served up a powerful flare! At 11:35 a.m. EDT today, a powerful X1-class solar flare erupted from the Sun. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory caught it all on camera. Camera with flash"
This was powerful X1-class flare. X-class flares have been dubbed the strongest, with X1 as the starting point. According to Nasa the strength of the solar flare increases as the number next to X increases. So, we have X2, X3 and more.
Explosive start to solar flare
"When the solar flare erupted on Thursday, it caused a strong radio blackout storm -- the kind that can disrupt some high-frequency radio broadcasts and low-frequency navigation, according to Bloomberg.
How many solar flares were generated?
There were at least 5 significant solar flares. Out of these, two may cause some trouble on Earth, explained William Murtagh, SWPC director.
What makes these solar flares dangerous
The danger from solar flares increases depending on the direction that the Sun is facing while shooting them off. If it is facing the Earth, then it means the flares are heading straight for Earth. In effect, that means full force of the flare will impact the our planet. If the Sun were to point elsewhere in space, then the flare would bypass Earth.
Notably, when the Sun fired off the solar flare, it was facing the Earth, according to Spaceweather.com.
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