Solar winds raging across the surface of the sun sent a massive stream of charged particles hurtling toward the Earth and the resulting geomagnetic storm raging in space could knock out power on our planet.
The U.S. Space Weather Prediction Center issued a warning for a moderate geomagnetic storm Wednesday, and the resulting ionic conditions could light up the night sky with beautiful auroras.
“[The] magnetospheric disturbances caused by Earth’s transition into increased solar wind speeds from a recurrent coronal hole [could affect the planet.]”
The charged particles coming from the sun are the result of a coronal hole, which is currently facing our planet. The resulting geomagnetic storm has the potential to affect radar and satellites as well as phone and internet networks along with GPS navigation services.
The space weather center first recorded the Earth’s contact with the solar wind stream Tuesday and the resulting geomagnetic disturbance registered as a G3-class storm. That’s the strongest storm in space this year.
“Voltage corrections may be required, false alarms [could be] triggered on some protection devices. Drag may increase on low-Earth-orbit satellites, and corrections may be needed for orientation problems.”
After the space weather warning, the largest power grid operator in the United States, the PJM Interconnection System Operator, also issued a series of alerts Tuesday, which cover the next few days.
As the planet moves further into the solar wind stream Wednesday night and Thursday, the geomagnetic storm level will decrease to G2 and G1 levels.
Some Canadian residents were treated to a spectacular aurora light show Tuesday night, and scientists are telling Americans as far south as Indiana and Ohio they might see the same over Wednesday night.
CME's do happen and they are worth preparing for. Large ones that effect earth are fairly rare, but they COULD... https://t.co/3WASBDBxvu— HTF Survival Store (@HTFSurvival) October 26, 2016
Space weather is serious business. This week’s solar storm was measured as moderate, but a severe magnetic disturbance could seriously damage planetary power grids and computer systems here on Earth.
Solar storms come in two varieties: solar flares, which can wreak havoc with technical equipment on Earth and coronal mass ejections, which could easily knock out the world’s power grid, according to NASA.
“In an increasingly technological world, where almost everyone relies on cellphones, and GPS controls not just your in-car map system, but also airplane navigation and the extremely accurate clocks that govern financial transactions, space weather is a serious matter.”
In 1859 a solar storm triggered fires ignited telegraph machines across the country in what came to be called the Carrington Event. Then, in 1989 a relatively small CME knocked out the Canadian Hydro-Quebec power network plunging some 6 million residents into darkness.
Earlier this month, President Barack Obama signed an executive order instructing the nation to prepare for space weather events like this week’s solar storm. Obama ordered the creation of a national response plan and recovery options in the case of a massive magnetic disturbance, according to the White House.
“Extreme space weather events — those that could significantly degrade critical infrastructure – could disable large portions of the electrical power grid, resulting in cascading failures that would affect key services such as water supply, healthcare, and transportation.”
For those smartphone users worried about future solar storms, there are several apps that monitor the space weather centers and send alerts to users warning them about impending magnetic disturbances in space.
As with any emergency, experts urge every household to have enough bottled water and canned food on hand to survive for two weeks because we can’t ignore space weather, but we can take steps to protect ourselves.
What do you think about this week’s magnetic storm, have you been affected?
[Featured Image by AP/NASA]