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.

| Updated on: Aug 18 2023, 14:01 IST
Can this geomagnetic storm in 2025 destroy Earth? Know the SHOCKING truth
Geomagnetic storm
1/5 In the year 2025, the Sun is expected to reach the peak of its solar cycle, also known as the Solar Maximum. This is the period when its solar activity will be extremely high, with more than 100 sunspots likely to be present at the same time on the Sun.  (Pixabay)
Geomagnetic storm
2/5 Such a highly reactive state can blast powerful geomagnetic storms towards our planet. But just how strong can these geomagnetic storms be and what consequences could they bring to our planet? (Pixabay)
Geomagnetic storm
3/5 According to a report by Mashable, NYU professor of engineering, physics, and mathematics Katepalli Sreenivasan has said that there is a 3 percent chance of a Carrington-level occurrence.  (Pixabay)
Geomagnetic storm
4/5 That means a G5-class geomagnetic storm can hit the planet in 2025. Such storms are capable of destroying satellites, mobile networks, wireless communications, GPS, and internet services and even cause power grid failures. In short, such an incident can send our planet back to the dark ages.  (NASA)
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5/5 But, the chances of such a geomagnetic storm hitting the Earth is still pretty slim, although scientists are not sitting on their laurels. With one and a half years to go, agencies such as ESA, NASA, and NOAA are working on building better predictive tools to know about such solar dangers even before they occur so we can take preventive steps.  (Pixabay)
Geomagnetic storm
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Unprecedented increase in geomagnetic storm activity has sparked concern among scientists and satellite operators. (Pixabay)

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.

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First Published Date: 17 Aug, 17:57 IST
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