Solar storm warning: Earth ‘on high alert’ as two big flares set to be ejected from Sun

A SOLAR STORM warning has been issued as experts say at least two major flares are poised to be launched from the Sun.

Dr Tamitha Skov, a space weather physicist, warned of a potential solar flare, saying: “No big Earth-directed storms yet, but we’re on high alert. Several sunspot clusters are in Earth-view right now. At least two are big-flare players, but none have launched anything significant.”

Dr Skov also said that certain solar winds may result in beautiful aurora being displayed over the skies in various parts of the world, including UK.

She added: “It looks like the pocket of fast solar wind from the small coronal hole is over-performing! We should enjoy a bit of aurora over the next few hours at least.

“What a great holiday gift for those in the UK, Iceland and possibly East Coast of Canada, if these conditions last.”

These so-called coronal holes are regions in the Sun’s corona (upper atmosphere) where the plasma is considerably cooler and less dense than the surrounding areas.

Depending on their severity, solar storms can have a wide array of impacts on the planet.

According to the US Space Weather Center (SWPC), solar storms are ranked on a scale of “G1 Minor” to “G5 Extreme”, with the latter being the most dangerous.

Minor storms can result in “weak power grid fluctuations” have a “minor impact on satellite operations”.

Weak storms are also known to confuse some migratory animals and can produce auroras at high latitudes.

But as their severity increases, so does their potential impact on terrestrial and orbital technology.

A G3 Strong storm, for example, can lead to surface charging on satellites and “drag may increase on low-Earth-orbit” spacecraft.

At the far end of the scale, extreme storms can cause entire power grids to collapse and “transformers may experience damage”.

Furthermore, satellite degradation is degraded and low-frequency radio signals can be blocked for hours at a time.

Furthermore, satellite degradation is degraded and low-frequency radio signals can be blocked for hours at a time.

The SWPC said: “During storms, the currents in the ionosphere, as well as the energetic particles that precipitate into the ionosphere add energy in the form of heat that can increase the density and distribution of density in the upper atmosphere, causing extra drag on satellites in low-earth orbit.

“The local heating also creates strong horizontal variations in the ionospheric density that can modify the path of radio signals and create errors in the positioning information provided by GPS.

“While the storms create beautiful aurora, they also can disrupt navigation systems such as the Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) and create harmful geomagnetic induced currents (GICs) in the power grid and pipelines.”

Solar flares have a tendency to strongly influence the local space weather in the vicinity of the Earth.

They can produce streams of highly energetic particles in the solar wind known as solar particle events that can impact the Earth’s magnetosphere and even present radiation hazards to spacecraft and astronauts.

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