Solar storm strikes! Fast-moving solar winds collide with Earth, NASA reveals

A solar storm event took place on Earth yesterday, October 30, as a stream of high-velocity solar winds struck the planet. NASA SDO image shows its origin point.

| Updated on: Oct 31 2023, 10:10 IST
Do all solar activities like solar storms, CME, impact Earth? This is what NASA says
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1/5 Sun is a source of energy and a lot of activities keep on happening on the fireball. But can Earth be impacted by solar activities? Before we tell you that, it is important to know what solar activity is? According to NASA, solar flares, coronal mass ejections, high-speed solar wind, and solar energetic particles are all forms of solar activity. All solar activity is driven by the solar magnetic field. (NASA)
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2/5 Solar flares impact Earth only when they occur on the side of the sun facing Earth. Because flares are made of photons, they travel out directly from the flare site, so if we can see the flare, we can be impacted by it. (Pixabay)
Solar storm
3/5 Coronal mass ejections, also called CMEs, are large clouds of plasma and magnetic field that erupt from the sun. These clouds can erupt in any direction, and then continue on in that direction, plowing right through the solar wind. Only when the cloud is aimed at Earth will the CME hit Earth and therefore cause impacts. (NASA)
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4/5 High-speed solar wind streams come from areas on the sun known as coronal holes. These holes can form anywhere on the sun and usually, only when they are closer to the solar equator, do the winds they produce impact Earth. (NASA)
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5/5 Solar energetic particles are high-energy charged particles, primarily thought to be released by shocks formed at the front of coronal mass ejections and solar flares. When a CME cloud plows through the solar wind, high velocity solar energetic particles can be produced and because they are charged, they must follow the magnetic field lines that pervade the space between the Sun and the Earth. Therefore, only the charged particles that follow magnetic field lines that intersect the Earth will result in impacts. (NASA)
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Know all about the solar storm that struck the Earth on October 30. (Pixabay)

On October 28, we first received the forecast that a solar storm was headed towards the Earth and would strike in a couple of days' time. It finally happened yesterday, October 30, but surprisingly, no coronal mass ejection (CME) was involved in the process. A massive hole opened up on the Sun and was releasing a stream of solar winds. These fast-moving solar winds reached the Earth yesterday and triggered a G1-class solar storm. The NASA Solar Dynamic Observatory images showed the hole through which solar winds were escaping.

According to a report by SpaceWeather, “As predicted, a fast-moving stream of solar wind is blowing around Earth today, Oct. 30th. The gaseous material is flowing from an equatorial hole in the sun's atmosphere. Arctic sky watchers should be alert for auroras shining through almost-full Moonlight”. A short video of the Sun, from the exact moment when solar winds escaped its surface, can be seen in the opening seconds of this NASA video.

Solar storm strikes, sparks auroras in arctic circles

The solar storm event was not too intense and resulted in only G1-class reading on the scale. It also sparked some auroras but they were also limited to the arctic circles. As per space weather forecasts, Kp5 reading, which is a marker of a moderate solar storm, was only spotted for a brief while, and the rest of the time it stayed as a Kp4 minor storm.

While the Earth escaped this encounter with solar particles, the next one may not be so lucky for it. And the next encounter might be around the corner as reports suggest a new sunspot in the sun's southern hemisphere has been seen rapidly expanding. Named AR3474, it is said to harbor beta-gamma magnetic fields that are a precursor for M-class solar flare eruptions. There is a possibility that a flare could erupt today, and if it did, the impact would be entirely geoeffective.

The role of the NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory

The NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) carries a full suite of instruments to observe the Sun and has been doing so since 2010. It uses three very crucial instruments to collect data from various solar activities. They include the Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager (HMI) which takes high-resolution measurements of the longitudinal and vector magnetic field over the entire visible solar disk, Extreme Ultraviolet Variability Experiment (EVE) which measures the Sun's extreme ultraviolet irradiance, and Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA) which provides continuous full-disk observations of the solar chromosphere and corona in seven extreme ultraviolet (EUV) channels.

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First Published Date: 31 Oct, 10:10 IST