Powerful solar storm approaches Earth today

According to NASA, a powerful solar storm is headed toward Earth that could potentially affect phone signals, GPS and satellites

After a solar flare strikes the sun, a huge solar storm hits the earth, according to NASA. The US space agency reported on January 20 that a solar flare was observed near a sunspot called AR2929. Now a resulting solar storm is rapidly approaching Earth. The solar storm can affect satellite communications, even cell phone and GPS connectivity. If it is strong enough, it can cause power outages, which can lead to power outages. That said, the storm has to be strong enough for that and it’s not that high of a level.

“Geomagnetic turmoil is possible on Jan. 22-23-24 as a series of CMEs deal flashy blows to Earth’s magnetic field,” read a post on Spaceweather.com. The website has issued a warning that Earth may feel the impact of the solar storm today and in the coming days.

Could a solar storm affect cell phone connections?

The Internet uses deep-sea fiber optic cables. However, these are usually immune to solar storms, as they carry light and not electrical current. But these long-distance cables use an accompanying conductor that connects repeaters in series along the length of these cables. However, a solar storm can hit these conductors and potentially disable them. If damaged enough, they can take months to replace, says a research paper published by Sangeetha Abdu Jyothi of the University of California, Irvine and VMware Research. This also means that the Internet will be shut down for a long period of time in many regions of the world. Sangeetha Abdu says the world is totally unprepared for such a solar storm-induced internet apocalypse. The condition, however, is that the solar storm must be powerful enough to penetrate the protective magnetic shield that envelops the Earth. Abdu has warned that the chance of that happening is small, but very high. Abdu said the probability of a catastrophic solar superstorm in the next decade is 1.6-12%

Abdu called it a ‘Black swan event’. One such solar superstorm has happened before and is called the Carrington event.

What is a solar storm and how can it affect us?

Contrary to its name, a solar storm is not really a storm. The term is used to describe the atmospheric effects that the Earth experiences as a result of strong electromagnetic events that take place on the sun. Before a solar storm comes a solar flare or coronal mass ejection (CME). The sun releases a huge burst of energy (including UV rays, radio waves and gamma rays and other particles) from its surface. This leads to a strong flow of electric charges and magnetic fields that hurtle into space at an extremely high speed of even 3 million miles per hour in all directions, sometimes hitting Earth. Over the years, NASA has recorded numerous solar storms hitting Earth.

After a solar storm hits Earth, the resulting effect is usually in the form of auroras, northern lights, which appear in the areas closer to the polar regions. They are seen in locations close to the Arctic.

The solar storms can also cause varying degrees of damage to satellites disrupting communications on Earth, causing many systems and operations to fail. Cell phone networks and GPS are also affected by the magnetic fields and radiation. Even power grids become vulnerable to the magnetic fields and can fail in extreme cases.

For example, in February 2011, a solar storm and CME produced by a strong solar flare disrupted radio communications across China. The most recent solar storm event on Earth on record by NASA occurred in 2017 when an X12.9-class solar flare hit Earth, causing a brief radio jamming and damaged satellites.

Arun Agarwal
I am Arun Agarwal, a passionate blogger and gamer. I love to share my thoughts on games and technology through blog posts. I’m also an avid reader of books about history, philosophy, science-fiction, and other genres as well as an anime fan. I like reading books that give me new perspectives or help me think differently about the world around us.