Published: Wed, March 14, 2018
Science | By Joan Schultz

Don't believe the hype about the coming solar storm

Don't believe the hype about the coming solar storm

Over a century later in Canada, on March 13, 1989, a geomagnetic storm caused a major blackout in the country that lasted nine hours, disrupting electricity from the Hydro Quebec generating station and going as far as melting power transformers in New Jersey.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) here in the United States, 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".

NOAA reported that it may have known if such as massive geomagnetic solar storm would hit the Earth on March 18 but there is nothing to even worry about. These included an article that warned about the possibility of people suffering from headaches and dizziness as a result of the event, and another one that claimed telecommunications might be disrupted, and that the storm may be a sign of "cracks" in Earth's magnetic field. Meteorologists are predicting a G1-level storm - the lowest level on the solar storm scale, which peaks at G5.

The charged particles from a solar flare can create "weak power grid fluctuations" and have a "minor impact on satellite operations", the NOAA said. If that occurs in Earth's direction, we can see the effects as the charged particles interact with our magnetosphere. Although a geomagnetic storm is coming to the northern hemisphere, it sounds like a pretty mild one.

Effects were so strong that, in some cases, telegraph wires delivered shocks to operators and ignited fires, and aurorae-phenomena usually only visible in polar regions-were seen as far south as Hawaii, Mexico, Cuba, and Italy.

On March 20 and September 23 each year, the Earth and sun line up so that day and night are of roughly equal length.

Nasa and the NOAA keep track of solar events using an array of telescopes and probes which help generate geomagnetic weather forecasts.

Solar flares and particles ejected via coronal mass ejections are associated with dark spots on the sun's surface. The CME sends a gust of plasma and electromagnetic radiation out into space.

While solar storms have the potential to be risky, they are by and large harmless to the average person.

The warning, issued by the Australian Space Forecast Centre, said the increased geomagnetic activity was due to a "coronal hole high speed wind stream".

This summer, Nasa is set to launch a spacecraft called Parker Solar Probe, which will travel closer to the sun than any other previous mission.

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