Authorities warn that a large solar flare will reach Earth today, potentially interrupting electrical grids and delivering the Northern Lights as further south as New York. The flare, officially termed the CME (coronal mass ejection), was seen on the section of the sun which is directly facing our planet, and it occurs as we enter a time of increased solar activity.
The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) issued an alert warning that the geomagnetic storm could trigger power grid oscillations and voltage warnings at higher latitudes, where the Earth is more vulnerable. According to NOAA, satellites may also be impacted, with “orientation abnormalities” requiring ground control to divert them and anything in the low-Earth orbit incurring greater drag.
As per the organization, the geomagnetic storm may reach category G2, that is moderately strong. “Event analysis, as well as model output, suggest CME arrival about midday on October 11th, with lingering impacts lasting into October 12th,” it added, with midday in US corresponding to early evening and late afternoon in the UK. “There is a modest probability of aurora hitting the far northern part of England and Northern Ireland tonight,” it said, “although cloud breaches are more likely in Northern Ireland, so sightings are more likely there.”
Unlike the Carrington Event, that slammed into Earth in 1859 and is regarded to be the most powerful solar storm ever documented, astronomers do not expect the flare to cause significant disruption. Even in latitudes even closer to the equator, the Carrington Event created an aurora which could be seen across the sky. In recent accounts, it was described as being brighter than the full moon’s illumination. It caused telegraph wires to go down across Europe and North America, and an equivalent storm today may cost globe trillions of dollars.
Solar activity has been shown to rise and fall naturally every 11 years, although not in a predictable pattern. Astronomers believe that we are presently in the early stages of a fresh active phase. Last year, the greatest solar outburst witnessed by scientists since 2017 was caused by a new family of sunspots discovered on our star’s surface.
Solar flares are divided into numerous classes, the most powerful of which being the X-class. CME was an M-class event, which means it was the second most effective after X. Flares travelling directly for Earth appear as a halo around the sun, which is why it’s dubbed a “Halo CME.”