Solar storm from Sun about to hit Earth - and may interfere with satellites

Satellites and power systems could be affected by the huge mass of plasma that’s on course to collide with our planet

Adam Smith
Wednesday 13 April 2022 16:40 BST
How To Prepare For A Solar Storm Hitting Earth
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A huge amount of plasma heading towards Earth from the Sun is due to hit the planet by Thursday.

A coronal mass ejection, which is a release of plasma and magnetic energy from our star, will come from a dying sunspot called AR2987.

Sunspots are cool areas on the Sun’s surface which are caused by the huge power of its magnetic field interfering with the convection process, with AR2987 sending out a C-class solar flare on 11 April.

When it does hit the Earth – which is expected by 14 April - it could cause a geomagnetic storm, although the ejection is only classified as a ‘moderate’ impact.

On our planet, power systems could experience voltage alarms, spacecrafts could experience drag, and it is possible that aurora could be spotted in cities like New York and Idaho.

The Sun is currently experiencing an increase in solar activity as part of its solar cycle, which lasts 11 years and is defined by eruptions and bursts of radiation. The number of sunspots during this cycle is increasing, due to hit its peak in 2025.

While this solar storm is relatively small, the risks that a larger one might have on the planet could prove extreme.

One study suggested that a severe solar storm, which happens one every 100 years on average, could plunge the world into an “internet apocalypse”.

The Earth’s magnetic field usually prevents solar wind – charged particles from the sun – from interfering with the planet, but once every century these escalating winds increase as part of the star’s life cycle and could cause an internet outage lasting for several months.

The current from these solar storms can enter and damage long conductors such as power lines.

“In today’s long-haul Internet cables, the optical fiber is immune to GIC. But these cables also have electrically powered repeaters at ~100 km intervals that are susceptible to damages,” Sangeetha Abdu Jyothi from the University of California, Irvine and VMware Research said.

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