Unexpected CME to hit Earth tomorrow! Geomagnetic Storm to follow, says NASA

A dangerous CME is expected to hit Earth tomorrow, February 17 and it will spark a Geomagnetic Storm.

| Updated on: Feb 16 2023, 16:30 IST
NASA: From Solar Winds, Solar Flares to CME, check how solar phenomena impact Earth
1/5 The harrowing thing is that it will not just be China that would be affected by such a devastating solar storm. (NASA)
2/5 Solar Flares: Solar flares are photon flares emitted from the Sun which travel from the flare site. They are rated on the basis of their intensity with the highest being an X-rated solar flare. It can cause power and radio blackouts and are responsible for the stunning phenomenon known to us as the Northern Lights or Auroras. (NASA/SDO)
3/5 Coronal Mass Ejections (CME): CMEs are massive plasma clouds carrying photons that are ejected from the Sun. CME occurs during the solar cycle and is at peak in the middle of the cycle. (NASA)
4/5 Solar Winds: Solar winds are high speed winds coming from holes in the Sun called Coronal holes. These holes can form anywhere on the surface of the Sun. If these solar winds prevail near the solar equator, they can cause impact on Earth, according to NASA. (Pixabay)
5/5 Solar Energetic Particles: Solar energetic particles are emitted from the Sun during Coronal Mass Ejections. These are charged particles; hence they follow the magnetic field lines between the Sun and the Earth and if they pass the magnetic fields near Earth, they have an impact. (NASA)
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A CME could hit Earth tomorrow and it is likely to be followed by a Geomagnetic storm. (NASA/SDO/Helioviewer.org)

After an intense solar storm struck the Earth and caused a bright auroral display on Valentine's Day, another solar phenomenon occurred yesterday, February 15, as a solar prominence hurled out a partial halo CME towards Earth. And now, this CME is expected to reach Earth as soon as tomorrow, February 17, according to a report by Spaceweather.com. A large CME can contain a billion tons of matter that can be accelerated to several million miles per hour in a spectacular explosion. Solar material streams out through the interplanetary medium, impacting any planet or spacecraft in its path.

Although this solar activity might seem harmless due to the distance of the Sun from our planet, they can cause major damage. Once released from the Sun, CMEs can take between 24 to 48 hours (about 2 days) to reach the Earth. The initial impact of the CME will result in the formation of a minor G-1 class Geomagnetic Storm which will hit the planet.

The Spaceweather.com report said, “Yesterday, Feb. 15th, a magnetic filament straddling the sun's equator erupted and hurled a partial halo CME toward Earth. The CME should arrive during the late hours of Feb. 17th.”

Moreover, experts expect this minor Geomagnetic storm to intensify into a G-2 class storm the day after, on February 18. “First contact is expected to produce a minor G1-class geomagnetic storm, intensifying to moderate G2-class storming on Feb. 18th,” the report further said.

Will it have any effect?

When the Geomagnetic storm hits Earth, the magnetic field lines of the Earth temporarily get disturbed, and it releases extremely high magnetic energy. The energy and heat is enough to ionize oxygen present in the upper atmosphere and turn it into blue-green hues of light, which we know as auroras.

February 17's Geomagnetic storm is also expected to bring about stunning auroras which can spill into the United States as far south as New York and Idaho, according to the report.

These Geomagnetic storms can disturb, or even destroy, GPS, radio communications, mobile phone connectivity, satellites and even the Internet. Also, they can create harmful geomagnetic induced currents (GICs) in the electricity grids.

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First Published Date: 16 Feb, 16:30 IST