A few days ago, the Sun released a massive stream of particles straight at our planet. Space weather experts were expecting a sizable geomagnetic storm following the event, and they lowballed it a bit. The storm is stronger than first anticipated. Actually, it is the strongest in six years, making it the strongest in this solar cycle – which started in December 2019 – so far.
The National Oceanic And Atmospheric Agency has a space weather forecasting unit that keeps an eye on what’s going on up there, and things are definitely getting wild. The storm has a G4 rating, marking it as severe – only one level below the maximum, which is extreme.
The NOAA alert for this G4 storm. Image credit: NOAA
There is no danger to people, but these geomagnetic storms can affect technology. Widespread voltage control problems are known to happen, and spacecraft can experience electrical charge forming on their surface and increasing drag.
There is not enough air to breathe in low-Earth orbit but the atmosphere extends out significantly, so much that it slows down satellites over time. Changes to the magnetic field on one side shift the atmosphere on the other, making it denser and slowing down the satellites even more. They are at risk of getting slowed down so much over time that they fall back down to Earth.
During a G4 geomagnetic storm, it is possible that the quality of Global Navigation Satellite Systems could degrade, making it more difficult to navigate on the ground, in the air, and at sea.
But it is not all negative. There is a big important positive when it comes to these strong events, and that’s the auroras. The northern lights are expected to be particularly intense tonight and could be visible as low as Missouri and Kentucky.
So, get out there and try to see the aurora if you are in the right place. And if you aren’t, or the weather conditions aren’t great, worry not. There are about 100 G4 level storms every solar cycle, so you’ll have plenty of chances over the next seven years, especially given that we are not at the maximum of solar activity just yet. That will come in 2025.
Source Link: Earth Just Got Hit By The Strongest Geomagnetic Storm In 6 Years