Between today and tomorrow, telephones could stop working, radio, TV and cable signals could experience interruptions, electrical grid systems could suffer cuts and satellite communication could end abruptly. All this is due to a strong solar storm detected by astronomers, which is approaching the Earth and it is possible that it hit it.
The National Office for Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), an agency of the United States Department of Commerce, warned of this phenomenon that may occur in the next few hours on our planet. But far from being a catastrophic prediction, as announced by various media, the truth is that NOAA states that the range of the solar storm is G1, the lowest in the classification.
NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) said it is “anticipated that such an ejection will arrive early or mid-UTC on August 20.”
On August 16, NASA astronomers detected a large coronal mass ejection. “You know that a solar explosion is powerful when it takes two hours to develop. A class B1 solar flare took even longer. The 2.5-hour blast sent a powerful shock wave through the Sun’s atmosphere, “said Dr. Tony Phillips, NASA astronomer and scientist in a statement.
“This solar storm could carry auroras to places like Northumberland and Norfolk of the United Kingdom, Maine, Minnesota and Washington of the United States, and as far as southern New Zealand and Tasmania,” tweeted space weather physicist Dr. Tamitha Skov , which anticipated that the well-known phenomenon of an aurora borealis could occur, but for middle latitudes and not only in the north.
Using data from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, scientists have developed a new eruption model of the Sun that successfully predicted 7 of the Sun’s largest eruptions of the last solar cycle, out of a set of 9. More developed, the This model could one day be used to inform forecasts of these intense bursts of solar radiation.
According to SWPC of the United States, solar flares are capable of producing strong X-rays that degrade or block the high-frequency radio waves used for radio communication. These huge explosions of plasma originate from highly twisted magnetic field structures on the Sun. When these explosions occur in active sunspot regions on the Sun, it is not uncommon to see them associated with large solar flares.
Some fast ejections can reach Earth in as little as 14 hours, while others can take several days. According to the SWPC, “the first sign that a coronal mass ejection hits the Earth’s environment is the density jump of the plasma due to the passage of the shock wave.”
Specialists say that this solar storm is “strange”, because currently our Sun is going through a period of solar minimum (the cycle lasts about 11 years and marks the moments of maximum and minimum activity of our star).
The 150 million kilometers that separate it from Earth, make it possible to hardly notice the multiple changes of the largest source of electromagnetic radiation in this planetary system. Like the Earth, the Sun also goes through phases and changes that can be anticipated for several years. Currently, it is going through a less active phase, called solar minimum.
And it is that this almost perfect sphere of plasma, composed of about three-quarters of a mass of hydrogen, a little helium, and much smaller amounts of elements, such as oxygen, carbon, neon and iron, experiences regular intervals of 11 years, which include energetic peaks of activity, followed by lows. During the peak, the Sun shows more sunspots and solar flares. At a solar minimum, it is much quieter, which means less sunspots and emitted energy.
The solar cycle is like a pendulum, swinging back and forth between periods of high and low sunspots every 11 years or so. This cycle was discovered in the 19th century, through astronomical observations. Although they have regular cycles every 11 years, they are not the same. Some are more intense, with many sunspots and solar flares. Others are weak, like the most recent Solar Cycle 24, which peaked in 2012-2014 with relatively little action.