Alert for the solar storm that arrives on Earth this Monday: Can it affect the internet and the electricity grid?

Last Saturday, October 9, the sunspot erupted and produced a strong M1.6-class solar flare and a coronal mass ejection (CME) directed at Earth and could have dire consequences.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the United States (NOAA, for its acronym in English) warned this Monday that a geomagnetic storm caused by a massive solar eruption will affect the Earth this Monday and it is possible that it generates interruptions in the electrical networks.

It is a phenomenon that occurs during periods of greater solar activity. In this case, the sunspot, dubbed AR2882, it was observed by astronomers on Saturday from the side of the sun facing Earth.

The agency’s alert highlighted that the geomagnetic storm would generate fluctuations in the electrical network with voltage alarms at higher latitudes, since in these areas the Earth is more exposed.

What’s more, satellites could be affected and show “orientation irregularities” so they would have to be redirected from the ground controls, the same as any object in low Earth orbit experiencing increased resistance.

According to estimates, the geomagnetic storm could reach the G2 category, which is moderately strong, according to that US state agency.

“The event analysis and the model’s departure suggest the arrival of CME around noon on October 11, with persistent effects that persist until October 12 ”, NOAA pointed out. This will occur between late afternoon and early evening in the UK and Europe, i.e. around noon and mid-afternoon in Argentina and South America.

“There is a small chance that an aurora will reach the far north of England and Northern Ireland tonight, but the clouds are breaking and therefore sightings are more likely in Northern Ireland ”, added the agency.

Where can you see the aurora?

Most likely visible at high latitudes, both in the south and in the north of the planet. That is, they could be seen, if conditions are right, in places like Tasmania, Scotland, southern Sweden and the Baltic countries.

The polar aurora is a atmospheric phenomenon seen as glow or luminescence in the night sky, generally in polar areas, although it can appear in other areas of the world for short periods. In the northern hemisphere it is called aurora borealis and in the south aurora australis.

The Northern Lights could be seen in the high latitudes of the planet.

Solar storms background

The most important solar storm on record occurred in 1859 and it is known as the Carrington Event, but according to the forecasts indicated, it would not reach that magnitude.

The Carrington event caused an aurora visible across the sky, even at latitudes much closer to the equator and was described in contemporary reports as even brighter than the light of the full moon.

That solar storm triggered failures in telegraph systems across Europe and North America, by then the most important means of communication. If a similar phenomenon were to occur today, it is estimated that it could cause billions of dollars in damage.

Astronomers say that solar activity increases and decreases every 11 years. It is a natural phenomenon, although it does not act with extreme precision. The specialists indicated that the Earth is in the first years of a new period of activity.

Scientists claim that the sun could be waking up during a period of increased solar flare activity, after having been relatively quiet for the past few years. Thus, a new family of sunspots was discovered on the surface that unleashed the largest solar flare seen since 2017.

Solar flares are of several types, classified into letters: They can be A, B, C, M or X and each letter represents an increase in energy production 10 times greater than the previous letter. Class X is considered the most intense.

According to information from the US agency, The CME that occurred last Saturday was a class M event, the second strongest. Also, as flares directed towards the Earth can be observed as a halo around the sun, this is known as “Halo CME”.

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