Unexpectedly strong solar storm strikes the Earth; Know the danger

Earlier, the models revealed that a minor solar storm would strike the Earth today, August 5, however, its impact was measured to be much higher than previously estimated. Check details.

| Updated on: Aug 05 2023, 12:57 IST
Do all solar activities like solar storms, CME, impact Earth? This is what NASA says
Solar storm
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)
Solar storm
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The powerful solar storm can spread aurora display as far south as New York and Oregon in the US. (Pixabay)

Yesterday, we reported that a coronal mass ejection (CME) was headed for the Earth, and NASA models revealed that it could spark a minor solar storm event. However, things took a turn for the worse when the CME made an impact after midnight, and the initial jolt was measured to be around 22 nT (nanotesla, the unit of magnetic field in the centimeter-gram-second system). The energy released pushed the solar storm from minor to moderate levels, meaning it will have a stronger impact on the upper atmosphere. The storm is currently ongoing, and researchers are tracking the damage it caused.

According to a report by SpaceWeather.com, “A G3-class geomagnetic storm is in progress following the impact of a CME on Aug. 5th (0230 UT). Sensors at the Canberra Magnetic Observatory in Australia measured a jolt of 22 nT to Earth's magnetic field”. The report also highlighted that following the impact, auroras can spread as far south as Arizona in the US.

Solar storm struck the Earth

A G3-class storm is strong enough to cause drag in the upper atmosphere and push smaller satellites around, causing both disruption of signals as well as damage to sensitive instruments. They can also disrupt shortwave radio communications such as GPS, and affect mariners, drone pilots, amateur radio operators, and emergency responders. Further, in some cases, it may also affect mobile networks.

The CME that is headed for the Earth was part of a series of M-class solar flare eruptions that took place on August 1. It was reported at the time that a particularly notorious sunspot was exploding every 3 hours, sparking a rolling series of shortwave radio blackouts on Earth.

Even as this solar storm passes by, there are 9 other sunspots on the Earth-facing side of the Sun that have concerned the researchers. With the Sun getting increasingly unstable as it nears the peak of its solar cycle, it is expected that solar activity will also ramp up in the days to come.

NOAA's DSCOVR satellite's role in solar storm monitoring

NOAA monitors solar storms and Sun's behavior using its DSCOVR satellite which became operational in 2016. The recovered data is then run through the Space Weather Prediction Center and the final analysis is prepared. The different measurements are done on temperature, speed, density, degree of orientation, and frequency of the solar particles.

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First Published Date: 05 Aug, 12:56 IST
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