- GPS navigation, mobile phone signals and satellite TV likely to be affected
Weeks after a powerful solar flare created a blackout over the Atlantic, a solar storm is headed towards Earth likely to hit the planet on Tuesday and Wednesday. Dubbed as a geomagnetic storm, the high-speed stream of solar wind is expected to hit Earth’s magnetic field as weather forecasters issue warnings.
Generated at an equatorial hole that has recently popped up in the Sun’s atmosphere, it could lead to auroras on the poles as it strikes with Earth’s magnetic field.
The massive solar flare is expected to hit satellites operating in the Earth’s upper atmosphere, impacting GPS navigation, mobile phone signals and satellite TV. The flares also have the potential of affecting power grids in some parts of the world. Experts also fear that the strong winds may trigger a geomagnetic storm in Earth’s magnetosphere. A geomagnetic storm is a major disturbance of Earth’s magnetosphere that occurs when there is a very efficient exchange of energy from the solar wind into the space environment surrounding Earth. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the storm is the result of major changes in the currents, plasmas produced by solar winds. However, to create a geomagnetic storm, a solar wind has to sustain high speeds for a long period of time, which transfers the energy of the wind into Earth’s magnetic field.
The largest storms that result from these conditions are associated with solar Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs) where billions of tons of plasma from the Sun are hurtled towards planets that also reach Earth. While coronal mass ejections take days to arrive at Earth, some have been observed to arrive within 15-18 hours of being ejected from the Sun.
The Sun had recently ejected one of the biggest solar flares observed in over four years that caused a radio blackout over the Atlantic. The X-class solar flare ionized the top of Earth’s atmosphere, causing a shortwave radio blackout over the Atlantic Ocean.