A 12,000-mile-deep canyon opened on the Sun. How will solar winds impact us?
The Sun’s ramped-up activity opened a 12,000-mile-deep canyon on its surface and sent a series of explosions and filaments of plasma while releasing powerful magnetized solar winds, and many of them have been directed at Earth, Space Weather announced.
The U.K. weather forecaster, Met Office also announced that two different "filament eruptions" occurred in the south-central part of the Sun, and warned that the satellites in the extreme ultraviolet part of the electromagnetic spectrum and ground telescopes equipped to observe in the warmth-carrying infrared wavelengths were both able to see the eruptions.
Those solar winds might bring more auroras to our planet in the next few days.
The first filament blasted from the Sun on Sunday and the second one followed on Monday.
The eruptions were followed by coronal mass ejections (CME). In addition to pushing the aurora south into the U.S., the first filament could impact the electrical systems including power grids and power plants, radio and satellite communications, and navigation systems. Fortunately, it appears the upcoming geomagnetic storm will be a minor one. Severe or extreme geomagnetic storms would be life-altering on Earth, creating extensive damage to anything that runs on electricity.
These types of storms have impacted Earth before, but they were in times before the proliferation of electricity. On the bright side, geomagnetic storms often cause mesmerizing aurora displays.
The 1859 incident, also known as the “Carrington Event”, unfolded as a powerful geomagnetic storm struck Earth during Solar Cycle 10. A CME hit the Earth and induced the largest geomagnetic storm on record; the storm was so intense it created extremely bright, vivid aurora throughout the planet and severely damaged the limited electrical and communication lines that existed.
A June 2013 study by Lloyd’s of London and Atmospheric and Environmental Research (AER) in the U.S. showed that if the Carrington event happened in modern times, damages in the U.S. could exceed $2.6 trillion, roughly 15 percent of the nation’s annual GDP.
Meanwhile, the CME of the second filament will not impact Earth.
Center for Science Education explains that solar filaments are dark lines or curves that sometimes appear in pictures of the Sun. Filaments are actually huge arcs of plasma (electrified gas) in the Sun's atmosphere. The reason why filaments look dark is that they are not as hot as the Sun's surface.
Filaments are held in place by powerful magnetic fields in the Sun's atmosphere. They usually appear above Sunspots, which are magnetically disturbed regions on the Sun's surface. Filaments can last for several days - or sometimes up to months! Filaments are most common around the peak of the Sunspot cycle, called solar max. Explosive solar storms are more frequent when the Sun's magnetic field is very active.
Filaments are most easily seen in photos of the Sun taken with a filter that only transmits a specific wavelength of red light. That color of red is called the hydrogen-alpha band. It is emitted by hydrogen atoms, the main constituent of the Sun. H-alpha light has a wavelength of 656.28 nanometers.
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