A solar storm emerging from a hole in the Sun will hit Earth on Wednesday

It is expected to be a rather weak one.
Ameya Paleja
3D rendering of solar activity.vitacopS/iStock
  • The peak of the solar cycle is expected in 2025.
  • Solar debris can take up to 18 hours to reach the Earth.
  • The expected impact of the storm will be minimal.

A solar storm that has erupted from a hole in the Sun's southern atmosphere is expected to reach the Earth this Wednesday, Live Science has reported.

The news of an incoming solar storm has become quite usual these days, with our Star approaching a peak of its 11-year solar cycle. Astronomers have been observing the Sun for centuries and have known that during the active phase of the solar cycle, the solar surface develops more sunspots.

These are regions on the solar surface where the magnetic field temporarily becomes stronger and stops convection. The temperature of matter in these regions drops in comparison to the solar surface, making them appear darker, hence the name sunspots.

Does the Sun also have "holes"?

The more we study the Sun, the more we get to know about the different activities that occur on its surface. Last month, the spots on the solar turned into large filaments of magnetism, sending more flares our way.

Researchers recently spotted a 'hole' in the southern atmosphere of the Sun. Unlike sun spots or filaments where magnetic field lines that emerge loop back onto the surface, a solar hole beams outwards in space and can therefore send out plasma at millions of miles an hour.

When released in our direction, the plasma and solar debris can take anywhere between 15-18 hours to reach the Earth. The interaction of the heavily magnetized particles in the eruptions with the magnetic field of the planet results in a geomagnetic storm, which is classified in classes G1-G5 to indicate their severity.

How strong will this geomagnetic storm be?

According to Spaceweather.com, the geomagnetic storm will hit the Earth on Wednesday, August 3, as the Earth will enter a high-speed stream of solar wind. The resultant geomagnetic storm is expected to be a minor one, classified as G-1 class.

This is likely to result in a wonderful display of Northern Lights, which will be visible in the states of Michigan and Maine in the U.S. Stronger geomagnetic storms hold the potential to severely disrupt satellite-based navigation and radio communication as well as damage electrical grids. The impact of this storm will be minimal.

With the Sun approaching the peak of its solar cycle, future geomagnetic storms may not be this harmless. Historically, the worst solar storm has been the Carrington event of 1859, which is estimated to have released the energy equivalent of 10 billion one-megaton atomic bombs, LiveScience said in its report. The auroras that resulted lit up the night sky brighter than the full moon and were seen as far south as the Caribbean islands.

Back then, the geomagnetic storm had fried the telegraph system, which was then a popular mode of communication. A similar scaled event today would lead to widespread blackouts resulting from the disruption of the grids as well as damage to communication satellites.

Modern technology's increased reliance on satellite-based communication also puts it at severe risk of damage if space weather goes bad.

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