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Barrage of solar storms to strike Earth TODAY triggering auroras amid warnings of ‘tech chaos’

Barrage of solar storms to strike Earth TODAY triggering auroras amid warnings of ‘tech chaos’ Barrage of solar storms to strike Earth TODAY triggering auroras amid warnings of ‘tech chaos’

A FRENZY of solar storms has erupted from the Sun this week and it could lead to dazzling showings of the Northern Lights.

A total of 17 have been captured by Nasa observatories exploding from the star and at least two of them are heading this way.

Nasa
One of 17 solar flares to have erupted from the Sun this week[/caption]

The stream of hot material, known as Coronal Mass Ejections (CME), erupted from a highly active sunspot on March 28.

When they reach Earth, they will trigger what is known as a geomagnetic storm – a largely harmless disturbance of the magnetic field.

On its space weather alert system, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration warned of possible effects on Earth.

It said that geomagnetic storms of G3 (strong) and G2 (moderate) ratings were expected on Thursday and Friday respectively.

In addition to triggering auroras, G3 storms can disrupt satellites and technology on Earth.

These include intermittent problems with GPS, problems with high-frequency radio signals, and power system bugs, the NOAA said.

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It may sound ominous, but any issues caused by the storm will be minor and they are extremely unlikely to affect everyday life.

Data on the CMEs has been captured by Nasa’s Solar Dynamics Observatory and Solar and Heliospheric Observatory.

U.S. astronomer Dr Tony Phillips highlighted that the storms should lead to showings of the Northern Lights at unusually low latitudes.

Writing on his website spaceweather.com, which tracks the sun’s activity, he said that Americans should see them after nightfall on Wednesday.

For Europeans, the hours before dawn on March 31 are favoured.

“When chasing auroras, dark skies are essential; go to the countryside,” Dr Phillips wrote.

“Urban glare can overwhelm auroras even during a strong geomagnetic storm.”

Solar storms are caused by CMEs and solar flares, which are huge expulsions of hot material called plasma from the Sun’s outer layer.

They can lead to the appearance of colourful auroras by energising particles in our planet’s atmosphere

Each solar storm is graded by severity on a scale of one to five, with a G1 described as “minor” and a G5 as “extreme”.

At the upper end of the scale, storms wreak havoc on our planet’s magnetic field, which can disrupt power grids and communications networks.

“Harmful radiation from a flare cannot pass through Earth’s atmosphere to physically affect humans on the ground,” Nasa says.

“However – when intense enough – they can disturb the atmosphere in the layer where GPS and communications signals travel.”

Thankfully, this week’s geomagnetic storms are unlikely to significantly impact life or technology on Earth.

In the past, larger solar flares have wreaked havoc on our planet.

In 1989, a strong solar eruption shot so many electrically charged particles at Earth that the Canadian Province of Quebec lost power for nine hours.

As well as causing issues for our tech, they can cause harm to astronauts working on the International Space Station, either through radiation exposure or by interfering with mission control communications.

The Earth’s magnetic field helps to protect us from the more extreme consequences of solar flares.

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The sun is currently at the start of a new 11-year solar cycle, which usually sees eruptions and flares grow more intense and extreme.

These events are expected to peak around 2025 and it’s hoped Nasa’s Solar Orbiter spacecraft will observe them all as it aims to fly within 26 million miles of the sun.

Getty - Contributor
Solar storms can trigger showings of the Northern Lights[/caption]

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