Solar storm: The key impacts a solar storm can have on Earth

Solar storm: NASA captures the moment a sunspot 'explodes'

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‘Solar storm’ is the term to describe the effects felt on Earth as a result of things like solar flares, coronal mass ejection, geomagnetic storms, and solar particle events. All of these types of solar activity can cause ‘space weather’ side effects on Earth, and right now a coronal mass ejection of plasma and the magnetic field is heading towards the Earth and may strike later this week. Here are the two impacts a solar storm like this could have on the Earth.

The Sun spews gas and particles into space – the stream of these particles is solar wind and the gas and particles come from the Sun’s hot outer atmosphere called the corona.

These particles are charged with energies and carried by the solar wind towards Earth.

According to NASA, this happens at up to one million miles per hour.

Sounds scary, right? While space can impact the Earth and the rest of the solar system, the Earth is protected from space weather by its magnetic field and atmosphere.

NASA’s site explains: “Our magnetic field and atmosphere act like a superhero’s shield, protecting us from the majority of the solar wind blast.

“Most of the charged particles crash into Earth’s shield and flow around it.

“The particles squish and flatten the side of the magnetic field that faces the Sun.

“The other side of the magnetic field stretches into a long, trailing tail.”

Solar storms happen as a result of magnetic activity within the Sun.

When solar storms happen, the solar wind gets stronger and can be dangerous.

The NASA Space Place information reads: “During a solar storm, explosions called solar flares break out.

“Solar flares send tons of energy whizzing through space at the speed of light.

“Sometimes flares come with huge solar eruptions called coronal mass ejections.”

Coronal mass ejections are the name for what is predicted to happen later this week.

Dr Tamitha Skov, a space weather physicist, has warned that a recent filament eruption from the Sun could cause mild disruption on Earth later this week.

She said: “NASA predictions show a recent filament eruption looks to deliver a glancing blow to the south of Earth by late December 11.”

However, the astronomers at have said the “swirling debris” caused by the explosion from the Sun will “barely miss the Earth,” which means there will be no geomagnetic storms.

The two impacts a solar storm can have on Earth


Dr Skov has said it’s possible we’ll see auroras at high latitudes.

This happens when the charged particles released from the Sun sneak through the Earth’s shield.

These particles precipitate into the upper atmosphere, ionisation and excitation happen and light of varying colour is emitted.

This happens within bands around the polar regions, but most of the planets in the Solar System also host auroras.

Radio, GPS and electricity issues

We may experience mild disturbance with radio and GPS as a result of the coronal mass ejection.

When CMEs enter interplanetary space they become known as an interplanetary coronal mass ejection and have the capability to collide with the Earth’s magnetosphere.

NASA’s Space Place site explains: “All of that extra radiation can damage the satellites we use for communications and navigation.”

“It can disrupt power grids that provide our electricity.”

The most famous example of ICME impacting the Earth happened in 1859.

The solar storm, also known as the Carrington Event, is the largest recorded geomagnetic perturbation to date.

It disabled parts of the USA telegraph network, started fires and shocked some telegraph operators.

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