Solar storm hits Earth! Causes radio BLACKOUT in Russia
Our Sun is going through a violent solar cycle and the results are being felt as far away as the Earth. The Sun's outer layer boiled over recently and shot out a coronal mass ejection (CME) from its surface on January 29. The same had the effect of unleashing superfast solar winds and that brewed up a geomagnetic storm which slammed into Earth's atmosphere. It reached Earth by just February 3. This solar storm, when it collided with the Earth's atmosphere, caused havoc on the ground. Depending on its severity, a solar storm can destroy satellites in space, knock out electricity grids on Earth and disconnect the Internet globally. Fortunately, such severe solar storms are few and far between. However, it did have a very destructive impact. This solar storm caused a radio blackout. That is exactly what it has done in Russia where the impact was the most severe.. The country is going through a long-lasting radio blackout since then. Apart from the destructive power, solar storms birth something else too - beautiful auroras in the extreme poles and that is what this one did too.
What are CMEs?
In simpler terms, coronal mass ejections (CMEs) can be understood as the massive solar particle eruptions due to intense flares from the Sun. CMEs fire an abundance of plasma, gases and magnetic fields out into space, often from the Sunspots which are lumps in the Sun's magnetic field. As CMEs escape the Sun, they travel at speeds ranging from less than 250 kilometres per second to over 3000 kilometres per second. CMEs can reach Earth in as little as 15-18 hours, which provides very little warning to astronomers and scientists on earth to prepare and warn everyone about it. Fortunately, not all solar storms travel as fast and generally take over a day to reach Earth. These CMEs, when they reach Earth brew up the solar storms with such a varied effect.
What impact have these CMEs left on Earth?
Space weather physicist Tamitha Skov said in her audio podcast, "On January 29, an X-flare player, region 2936, fires a big M-flare and launches a solar storm while in the Earth-strike zone (sic).” She further shared the information via tweet, “The predicted solar storm has arrived right on time! Learn the details of what is to come over the next few days in the new SpaceWeatherWoman forecast, up now! See where to expect aurora & why amateur radio operators & GPS users need to be vigilant!”
To proove her point, Skov gave an example. She tweeted, "Here's what aurora from the ongoing solar storm is doing to VHF radio in Russia now." She shared an audio clip of a radio broadcast that was suffering immense interference due to the solar storm.