As a solar storm approaches Earth, navigation and radio devices may experience brief blackouts.
As the Sun approaches the peak of its 11-year solar cycle, solar activity is expected to increase, as are the chances of solar flares and coronal mass ejections (CMEs), which could send some rough space weather into Earth’s orbit.
Astronomers have been watching the Sun closely to see which regions are experiencing changes in magentic flux and closely following them to see if they result in a solar flare or subside with little impact on space weather.
Sunspots that were gradually growing in size took the shape of sun filaments last week, changing the dynamics on the solar surface. Each filament was the length of the Earth’s orbit around the Moon. These highly unstable filaments clung together for a few days before dissolving earlier this week and sending a solar flare directly toward Earth.
Astronomers also observed a prominence on the Sun, which is a common occurrence on the solar surface but does not result in a solar flare.
“There is currently a huge #prominence visible on the #Sun. That’s impressive, but it was spectacular to see a very fast moving part of it through my small refractor telescope – ejecting and detaching to the side. Images captured through my #Daystar #Quark“, said Dr. Sebastian Voltmer on Twitter.
A solar prominence does not cause bad solar weather because it remains anchored to the Sun. The solar flare, on the other hand, is not so forgiving and can be extremely dangerous, especially for spacecraft that do not have the protection of Earth’s multiple layers of atmosphere.
Elon Musk’s SpaceX lost 40 satellites earlier this year, just as they were reaching their orbits. Astronomers discovered that increased solar activity could cause other smaller satellites (CubeSats) to leave their orbits up to ten times faster than usual, according to the Evening Standard.
What can we expect from the Solar Storm in the coming days?
According to Spaceweather.com, the breaking filament has also sent a CME toward Earth, which is approaching slowly. It is expected to arrive on the 20th or 21st of July. CMEs and solar flares contain highly charged particles that can ionize the upper layers of the atmosphere, which we use for GPS and radio communication. As a result, radio blackouts are the most common consequence of solar activity.
A G1-class geomagnetic storm was observed in the last 24 hours, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Weather Prediction Center, and it is expected to occur again on July 21st and 22nd. During this time, electrical grids may experience minor power fluctuations, and auroras may be visible at high latitudes.
These forecasts are based on mathematical models developed by astronomers after studying decades of solar data. However, these methods are not perfect, and solar weather can differ from predictions. A geomagnetic storm caused by factors not normally observed by scientific instruments recently hit the Earth at a million miles per hour.
Beyond preparing for the possibility of a radio blackout, there is little we can do right now if the space weather deteriorates. Probably nothing! /Freedom Tech