Solar storm forecast: ‘High-speed’ solar winds set to batter Earth this weekend.
This weekend, a million-mile-per-hour solar winds are projected to pound the earth, potentially triggering a geomagnetic storm above the world.
A flood of charged particles from the Sun is heading our way, according to space weather forecasters. The “high-speed” stream is expected to reach our planet sometime between Sunday and Monday (July 11 to 12). A hole has opened up in the Sun’s atmosphere and is spewing a stream of solar wind in Earth’s direction.
According to SpaceWeather.com, the stream might cause a minor solar storm in the Earth’s magnetosphere, which is an area of space dominated by the magnetic field of the planet.
At night, people living in northern or southern latitudes can expect to see gorgeous aurora.
Solar winds are charged particle or plasma streams that erupt from the Sun and travel into space.
According to NASA, these winds may reach speeds of up to one million miles per hour on average, but they can go even faster.
Hailing from the Sun’s corona – the inner atmosphere – the winds can mingle with Earth’s magnetic field and trigger a number of phenomena.
Among the weaker impacts are colourful aurora effects around the planet’s poles – Aurora Borealis in the north and Aurora Australis in the south.
Stronger winds, on the other hand, can sometimes cause a geomagnetic or solar storm.
Satellite operations, radio communications, and even power outages have all been reported to be disrupted by these space weather occurrences.
Satellites’ frictional drag can be increased by solar winds, and their orbits can be degraded to the point where they crash onto the planet’s surface.
Nicky Fox, of NASA’s Director of the Heliophysics Science Division, explained: “As the wind flows toward Earth, it carries with it the Sun’s magnetic field.
“It moves very fast, the smacks right into Earth’s magnetic field.
“The blow causes a shock to our magnetic protection, which can result in turbulence.”
Solar winds can be especially damaging for astronauts who aren’t totally protected by our atmosphere.
The charged particles flowing towards Earth put them at risk of absorbing damaging radiation while also putting their spaceship at risk of destruction.
Solar storms have been known to cause havoc in various places of the planet in the past.
A solar storm in March 1989 caused a nine-hour blackout Hydro-Québec’s electricity transmission system in Canada.
And in 1859, the infamous Carrington event is said to have triggered the largest solar storm of all time.
Triggered by a series of coronal mass ejections (CMEs) – a massive release of plasma from the sun – the event is said to have burned through telegraph poles around the world.
NASA warned in 2014, “A similar storm today could have catastrophic effects on modern power grids and telecommunications networks.”
A National Academy of Science study estimates that such a storm today could cause more than 1.45 trillion pounds ($2 trillion) in damage – 20 times more than Hurricane Katrina.
And a Carrington-strength CME just missed us in July 2012.
Fortunately, the good news is that incoming solar winds are not expected to have a major impact on our planet.
Space Weather said, “A high-speed stream of solar wind is approaching Earth. ETA: July 11-12.
“The gaseous material is streaming out of an equatorial hole in the sun’s atmosphere.
“Minor geomagnetic storms and auroras are possible as the solar wind arrives.”