Wed. Aug 10th, 2022

Illustration of a coronal mass emission (CME) emanating from the sun.  These events are powerful releases of solar-charged particles (plasma) and magnetic fields that travel on the solar wind.  When a CME hits Earth, it can cause a geomagnetic storm that disrupts the planet's magnetosphere, our radio transmissions, and electrical wires.  They can damage artificial satellites and cause prolonged power outages.  Humans in orbit are also very vulnerable to these events if high-energy particles are not protected by typical spacecraft.

Illustration of a coronal mass emission originating from the sun. (Getty)

A huge eruption on the sun is scoring a “direct hit” on Earth and could cause minor disruption to the power grid at the northern latitudes.

People in northern Britain may see the northern lights or aurora as particles from the sun hit the Earth’s magnetic field.

The Space Weather Prediction Center, part of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, issued a geomagnetic storm warning Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday.

The warning suggested that the storm could affect power grids in some areas and satellites, but in practice these effects are likely to be minor.

Aurora may be visible in some parts of the UK, the Met Office said.

Read more: Aurora glitters across northern Wisconsin

The Met Office said: “On October 11, a coronal mass ejection is expected to arrive on Earth, where minor to moderate geomagnetic storms are likely to result in increased auroral activity during October 11.

“There is a small chance that the aurora will reach far north in England and Northern Ireland tonight, but cloudbursts and therefore observations are more likely in Northern Ireland.

Aurora Borealis northern lights

Aurora borealis, AKA northern lights.

“Minor storms may continue into October 12 before a rapid wind from a coronal hole can come, perhaps continuing the rather active period of geomagnetic activity.”

Coronal mass emissions are large clouds of solar plasma and magnetic fields released into space after a solar flare.

When they stretch for millions of miles, they can cause northern lights when they hit the Earth’s atmosphere.

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Solar storms are ranked from G1 to G5, where stronger storms have the potential to cause radio interruptions.

This week’s storm will be at the lower end of the scale, the Met Office said.

It added that the aurora could continue into the week, saying: “Aurora is possible through 11th and 12th in large parts of Scotland, although cloud cover is rising, meaning observations are unlikely for most.

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NASA describes a geomagnetic storm as an interaction in the Earth’s magnetosphere and says: “When a coronal mass ejection or high velocity current arrives on Earth, it buffers the magnetosphere.

“If the incoming solar magnetic field is facing south, it interacts strongly with the opposite oriented magnetic field on Earth.

“The Earth’s magnetic field is then peeled up like an onion so that energetic solar wind particles can flow down the field lines to hit the atmosphere above the poles.”

See: Green and pink auras dance in the Lapland sky

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