Solar storm hits Earth after Sun spews out CME cloud; Luckily, THIS happened then | Tech News

Solar storm hits Earth after Sun spews out CME cloud; Luckily, THIS happened then

A coronal mass ejection (CME) cloud struck the magnetic fields of the Earth yesterday, February 20. The event could have turned into a scary solar storm but it did not. Know the reason.

By: HT TECH
| Updated on: Feb 21 2023, 11:26 IST
6 TERRIFYING solar storms that blasted Earth in 2022
Solar storm
1/6 On June 29, a surprise solar storm struck the Earth. The solar storm was not caused by coronal mass ejections (CME) but by a corotating interaction region (CIR), which opened a hole in the Earth's magnetosphere. It was a G1-class solar storm which is capable of causing shortwave radio blackouts and GPS disruptions. Interestingly, it coincided with the rare five planet alignment event.  (NASA)
Solar storm
2/6 Extremely rare pink auroras could be seen on November 3 near Greenland, after a G1-class solar storm slammed into the Earth. Solar storms usually give a greenish hue due to ionizing of Oxygen atoms. However, the CME in this case was able to reach the lower strata of the atmosphere which ionized Nitrogen atoms and gave off the rare pink aura.  (Representative Photo) (Pixabay)
Solar storm
3/6 On November 6, a powerful solar flare which was estimated to be an X-class solar flare caused temporary radio blackouts in Australia and New Zealand. The resultant solar storm blocked all high frequency radio waves making it hard for various emergency services and airlines that use radio communications to operate for multiple hours.  (Pixabay)
Solar storm
4/6 On August 7 and 8, a mysterious phenomenon was seen after a solar storm strike which scientists call STEVE (strong thermal emission velocity enhancement). A gigantic ribbon of purple light followed by a wave of green light could be seen in many parts of North America.   (@KaniskiDylan / Twitter)
Solar storm
5/6 A rare double solar storm attack was seen on March 14 when a G2-class solar storm was quickly followed up with another G1-class solar storm. Scientists believe that such multiple solar storm attacks are going to be more frequent in coming days as the Sun reaches the peak of its solar cycle. (Pixabay)
Solar storm
6/6 On October 25, the Sun seemed to beam a smile at Earth even as it spewed a stream of dangerous solar particles towards our planet. Multiple dark regions popped up on the Sun that gave an uncanny impression of a smiley face. The resultant solar storm from the event was noted to be a G2-class which is so strong that it is capable of causing fluctuations in electricity grids on Earth.  (SDO/AIA)
Solar storm
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Know all about the February 20 solar storm event. (NASA)

On February 17, an extreme solar flare eruption occurred on the Sun. The X2.2-class solar flare exploded on the sunspot AR3229 and became the strongest flare seen in the last two years. While the event caused radio blackout on the American continents, the event was concerning because there was a risk that it could channel further solar storm events on Earth by releasing coronal mass ejection (CME) clouds. The CME cloud finally hit the Earth yesterday, February 20, in alignment with the prediction by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. However, unexpectedly, it did not cause the kind of solar storm astronomers were worried about. Check details.

The incident was reported by SpaceWeather.com which noted in its website, “A CME struck Earth's magnetic field on Feb. 20th at 10:39 UTC. The impact was weak and did not cause a strong solar storm. If this was the CME from Friday's X2.2 flare (the jury's still out) then NOAA's forecast of a weak glancing blow was correct”.

CME cloud hits the Earth causing weak solar storm

The intensity of a solar storm depends on two factors. First is the amount of solar matter (CME) that interacts with the magnetic field of the Earth and second is the angle at which it strikes us. It was expected that a powerful solar flare eruption like the February 17 one would release a huge amount of CME cloud that was capable of causing a powerful solar storm event on Earth.

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However, we got lucky as the eruption on the Sun was not at the dead center of the Earth-facing disk. As a result, by the time the CME cloud reached our planet, it could only strike glancing blows and a large part of the cloud never made contact with the Earth. This resulted in a heavily weakened solar storm.

If the Earth had to suffer the full brunt of the cloud, it could have resulted in a dangerous solar storm. It could potentially damage satellites, break down mobile networks and internet services, cause power grid failures and corrupt sensitive ground-based electronics such as pacemakers and ventilators.

For now, the Earth lucked out, so to speak. But the Sun is far from done with its chaotic solar activities and another big solar storm could just be around the corner.

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First Published Date: 21 Feb, 11:26 IST
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