Unprecedented surge in geomagnetic storms hit Earth as Sun fury mounts
Unexpected rise in geomagnetic storms worries scientists. These have disrupted satellites and radio frequencies and if they get worse, even the power grids may be impacted.
The Sun's 11-year cycle has taken an unexpected turn as the volatility has increased by a huge margin, sparking worry among scientists. The expected rise and fall in solar activity within this cycle usually follow a predictable pattern. However, the current scenario is different—geomagnetic storms hitting Earth are more frequent and intense than anticipated. What makes things worse is that this is happening well before the projected peak in solar activity, which should have happened in 2025.
Escalating Storms from the Sun
Scientists are growing increasingly concerned as the frequency of geomagnetic storms sparked by the Sun continues to rise, according to a Science Alert report.
While immediate danger remains unlikely, the heightened solar activity does present potential consequences some fascinating, others worrisome.
As far as the fascinating part is concerned, these storms are responsible for spectacular phenomena such as the mesmerizing Aurora Borealis.
On the other hand geomagnetic storms also cause radio blackouts and pose a threat to low-Earth orbit satellites (LEOs). This is the case when these geomagnetic storms are not very strong. When these storms get more powerful, things get worse.
The Starlink Incident
In February 2022, an incident dubbed the "Starlink destruction event" showcased the Sun's unexpected power. SpaceX launched 49 satellites into low orbit, a move that usually wouldn't render them susceptible to solar disruptions. However, an unforeseen coronal mass ejection triggered a geomagnetic storm that caused the destruction of 38 of these satellites - the storm caused increase in drag and the satellites were never able to get to their desired orbit causing them to fall back towards Earth.
The majority of low-Earth orbit satellites are positioned at altitudes exceeding 400 kilometers. This altitude choice provides them with a level of protection against solar disturbances. The Starlink event, while distressing, stands as an outlier within the context of numerous successful past launches.
Nature's Light Show and Ongoing Concerns
For avid sky gazers, the increased solar activity not only resulted in the Starlink incident but also gifted the world with stunning Northern Lights displays in the northern hemisphere.