Terrifying solar storm hits Earth, Mars, and the Moon at the same time!

The European Space Agency has revealed that a solar storm was so big that it struck the Earth, the Moon, and Mars at the same time! Know all about it.

| Updated on: Aug 04 2023, 14:04 IST
Solar storms that plagued the Earth this week: Massive solar flare eruption, 2 CME strikes, more
Solar storm
1/5 The week began with a minor solar storm incident on Monday, when aurora displays were seen in some high-latitude areas. The solar activity didn't stop there as another new sunspot, AR3363, that appeared to be crackling with solar flares also began moving towards Earth's view. (Pixabay)
Solar storm
2/5 The very next day, the unstable region on Sun began exploding. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory detected a massive M6-class solar flare that kept erupting for a long duration. Reportedly, it released more energy than some X-class flares. This sparked a planet-wide shortwave radio blackout. (Pixabay)
Solar storm
3/5 On Wednesday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) prediction models confirmed that a fast-moving coronal mass ejection (CME) released during the flare eruption, and it was set to deliver a glancing blow to the Earth.  (NASA)
Solar storm
4/5 NOAA declared a 3-day warning for solar storms as it confirmed that yet another CME cloud is also headed for our planet and can impact the magnetosphere on July 22. The first CME was expected to strike on Friday, July 21. (NASA SDO)
Solar storm
5/5 On Friday, the first of two CME struck the Earth, delivering the second minor solar storm for the week. The second CME was expected to strike by July 22 and intensify the first ongoing storm. The resultant effect has been forecasted to even spark a G3-class geomagnetic storm. Now, the weekend appears to be a quiet one, as no further solar activity is expected. But with multiple new sunspots expected to come to the Earth's view over the weekend, the next week can be even more chaotic. (Pixabay)
Solar storm
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Know all about this menacing solar storm that had a width that spanned the Earth, the Moon, and Mars. (Pixabay)

As the Sun nears the peak of its solar cycle, which is expected to arrive in 2025, researchers continue to worry about the Earth getting hit by a severe solar storm that can damage satellites, disrupt wireless communications, and even damage sensitive electronics on the ground. But it will be surprising for you to know that we have already encountered a massive solar storm like this in 2021. While that particular solar event did not have as intense solar particles, it made up for it by having a ridiculously large size that encapsulated the Earth, the Moon, and Mars at the same time. The details of this solar storm have been revealed by the European Space Agency (ESA). Let us take a look.

ESA revealed the details of this solar storm event in its blog post, “A coronal mass ejection erupted from the Sun on 28 October 2021 and was spread over such a wide area that Mars and Earth, while on opposite sides of the Sun and around 250 million kilometers apart, received an influx of energetic particles. This marks the first time that a solar event was measured simultaneously on the surfaces of Earth, the Moon, and Mars”. The findings from the analysis of this solar storm event have been published in a paper in the Geographical Research Letters journal.

The biggest solar storm of modern history

The fact that ESA mentioned that such a solar storm has never been measured makes it a big deal and highlights the fact that major solar storm events such as the Carrington event also fail in comparison to the sheer magnitude of this solar storm.

Taking note of the event, ESA also highlighted that this “emphasises the need to prepare human exploration missions for the dangers of space radiation”.

This particular event also caused the rare ‘ground enhancement' phenomenon. For the unaware, ground enhancement in this context refers to the accumulation of high electromagnetic charge near the surface level of the Earth that can impact ground-based electronics. Supercomputers, pacemakers, and large industrial equipment are particularly vulnerable to such incidents.

Despite the size and ground enhancement, surprisingly the solar storm did not prove to be fatal to the satellites in the lower orbit of the Earth or cause a major disruption in wireless communication. It is believed that the reason for this was that the overall intensity of the coronal mass ejection (CME) was dispersed as a result of its massive radius.

A thing to note here is if this CME cloud was smaller in size, its intensity would increase multifold and could perhaps even exceed the levels of the Carrington event. Can such a solar storm strike us in the near future? Nobody can tell.

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First Published Date: 04 Aug, 14:03 IST
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