A solar storm alert has been issued for Earth after an eruption on the sun which has released powerful, magnetised solar winds towards our planet.
According to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), a number of strong geomagnetic storms have been observed in recent hours after intensive activity on the sun caused two different “filament eruptions”, also known as coronal mass ejections.
The NOAA has ranked the storm as strong – the worst-case scenario could see issues with satellites and humans who are currently in space. Radio and navigation systems could also be interfered with and migratory animals could be disrupted.
But on a more positive note, solar storms can also cause incredible sights like the Northern Lights.
The NOAA said 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”.
“These storms result from variations in the solar wind that produces major changes in the currents, plasmas, and fields in Earth’s magnetosphere,” it added.
In the event of a G5 storm – on the more serious scale – Earth could see a radio blackout on the planet’s entire sunlight side, lasting for a number of hours.
The GOAA said this would result in “no HF radio contact with mariners and en route aviators in this sector”.
The latest storm was predicted by Space Weather, which detailed how a “dark filament of magnetism just whipsawed out of the sun’s atmosphere, carving a gigantic canyon of fire”. Its walls were estimated to be at least 20,000km high.
Dr. Tony Phillips, who runs Space Weather, said: “Magnetic filaments are plasma-filled tubes of magnetism that meander through the sun’s atmosphere. They easily become unstable and erupt, hurling fragments of themselves into space.”
These storms have affected Earth in the past, most seriously in 1859, an event which was known as the “Carrington Event”.