AN INCOMING solar flare could spark appearances of the Northern Lights across the globe this week.
The massive volley of space radiation was ejected from our closest star on November 2 and is expected to reach Earth as early as Thursday.
The incoming flare was picked up by Nasa’s Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO), a spacecraft that monitors the Sun’s activity.
The flare resulted in a coronal mass ejection (CME) – a huge expulsion of plasma from the Sun’s outer layer, called the corona.
It’s what’s known as a “halo CME”, as CMEs heading directly for Earth can be observed as a halo around the Sun.
If the charged particles reach our planet, they may trigger showings of the Northern Lights, according to SOHO.
The incoming CME could also cause power grid fluctuations with voltage alarms at higher latitudes, where the Earth is more exposed, according to spaceweather.com, a site dedicated to the sun’s activity and its effects on Earth.
It follows a huge CME last week that was predicted to spark auroras on Halloween – though skywatchers were ultimately left disappointed by a meager showing.
Most read in News
“Yet another spectacular halo CME directed towards Earth,” the official SOHO Twitter account wrote this week.
“Let’s hope that this one will produce more impressive aurorae than the Halloween storm.”
The CME is a “Cannibal CME”, a fast ejection of plasma that sweeps up slower CMEs in front of it.
“Piled together, the mish-mash of CMEs contain strong magnetic fields and compressed plasmas that can do a good job sparking geomagnetic storms,” spaceweather.com said.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the CME is due to hit Earth at 11:00 p.m. on November 3.
Geomagnetic storms – and any stellar light shows – would then commence on November 4 and 5.
The storm could reach category G2, which is moderately strong, according to the agency.
A G2 storm may trigger power system voltage alarms, while long-duration storms may cause minor damage to the power grid.
The far more likely outcome, however, is a showing of the Northern Lights in northern hemispheres.
On Twitter, space weather physicist Dr Tamitha Skov wrote: “Solar Do-Over! Once again an Earth-directed #solarstorm is on its way.
“NASA model predicts impact early November 4. #NOAA modeling of an earlier eruption hints this new event will catch up to the earlier one, making this a 1,2-punch! So better odds for #aurora than on Halloween!”
Solar flares can have an impact on Earth. They affect our planet’s magnetic field, which in turn can disrupt power grids and communications networks.
Thankfully, due to the flare’s intensity, any disruption it causes is likely to be temporary.
In the past, larger solar flares have wreaked havoc on our planet.
In 1989, a strong solar eruption shot so many electrically charged particles at Earth that the Canadian Province of Quebec lost power for nine hours.
One hundred and thirty years earlier, an enormous solar storm triggered the infamous Carrington Event, in which telegraph operators suffered electric shocks and sparks exploded from pylons.
Weaker solar flares are responsible for auroras like the Northern Lights.
Those natural light displays are examples of the Earth’s magnetosphere getting bombarded by solar wind, which creates the bright green and blue displays.
The sun is currently at the start of a new 11 year solar cycle, which usually sees eruptions and flares grow more intense and extreme.
These events are expected to peak around 2025 and it’s hoped the Solar Orbiter will observe them all as it aims to fly within 26 million miles of the sun.
Solar storms may cause issues for our tech on Earth[/caption]
In other news, three entirely new lifeforms were recently discovered at different locations onboard the International Space Station.
Nasa has announced that it is accepting applications for wannabe space explorers who wish to fire their names to the Red Planet.
And, the Perseverance Mars rover has revealed stunning video and audio recordings from the surface of the Red Planet.
We pay for your stories! Do you have a story for The Sun Online Tech & Science team? Email us at [email protected]