Is today's severe solar storm something to fear?

An intense geomagnetic storm may affect large parts of the US starting on Friday

Stars Insider

10/05/24 | StarsInsider


Earth is heating up, but climate change isn't the only threat. The Sun also experiences 'weather' changes, and one thing you might have heard about is solar flares. But what are they, really? Well, we can think of them as storms that take place on the surface of the Sun. Energy that's built up is released, creating a magnetic storm. Fluctuations to the magnetic field can sometimes be felt as far away as here on Earth! So, should we be worried? Well, that all depends on the size of the storm.

The space weather department of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has predicted that large parts of the US will experience disruptions due to a “severe” G4 geomagnetic storm on Friday, May 10. The major geomagnetic storm, i.e. disruption to the Earth's magnetic field, was caused by an intense solar storm expelling powerful magnetic fields in our direction from the sun. A G4 geomagnetic storm is the second-strongest of its kind, and is capable of causing "widespread voltage problems,” issues with the electric power grid, radio and navigation systems, and other communications systems.

The effects of the storm are expected to hit on Friday and may continue through Sunday. One upside to this jarring news is that such cosmic weather events can trigger incredible displays of the Northern Lights in places they never normally appear. NOAA is predicting that they may be visible as far south as Alabama and Northern California. NASA has emphasized that harmful radiation from solar flares like this “cannot pass through Earth’s atmosphere to physically affect humans on the ground.” However, they can be dangerous to astronauts and damage satellites and other technology in space. The last time the NOAA issued a geomagnetic storm warning of this magnitude was in 2005. 

If you're interested to learn more about solar storms and how they can impact the Earth, click through the gallery. 

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