Huge geomagnetic storms are expected to reach Earth tomorrow

The night sky in New York could light up with auroras during G2-class storms.
Ameya Paleja
Sun releasing strong solar flare.
Sun releasing strong solar flare.

NASA 

Our planet is set to experience G2-class, moderate-intensity geomagnetic storms today after the Sun sent out solar flares of multiple intensities as well as some charged particles over the weekend. The night sky in New York could light up with auroras, Spaceweather.com has reported.

Increased activity on the Sun has long been expected as the star has entered an active phase of its 11-year cycle. During this time, the polar regions on the Sun flip, where the north becomes the south and vice versa. These changes also result in disruptions of the magnetic fields inside the Sun, which can temporarily halt the convection process in some regions.

These regions are relatively cooler than the rest of the solar surface and appear as spots when viewed from the Earth. They are therefore called sunspots and have been used by scientists as a measure of solar activity.

A busy weekend on the Sun

Once formed, sunspots can assume larger forms very quickly or let out pent-up energies in the form of solar flares. Scientists measure the intensity of the flares in five classes viz., A, B, C, M, and X, with the first three being low-intensity flares classes, M being a moderate intensity class and X-class flares being the most powerful of all. Within the classes, the strength of the flares is denoted by numbers 1-9, with greater numbers denoting higher intensity of the flare.

On Sunday, October 2, the Sun had a busy day sending out an X-class flare followed by two M-class flares and particulate matter alongside, which scientists refer to as coronal mass ejection (CMEs). The bulk of solar activity did not come to a close with the weekend, with astronomers forecasting a 99 percent chance of C-class flares, 70 percent chance of M-class flares, and 30 percent chance of X-class flares following them.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the CMEs sent out are expected to reach Earth at midnight on October 4 and cause a G2-class geomagnetic storm. A geomagnetic storm of such intensity can cause voltage alarms in high-altitude power systems, damage transformers, and even disrupt spacecraft operations at times. The resultant auroras from this storm are expected to be visible to the naked eye in areas as low as New York and Idaho.

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Big Dangerous sunspot

The increased activity of the Sun has been consistent with the increase in the number of sunspots currently visible on its surface. Prominent among them have been sunspots AR3110 and AR3112, which have been sending out solar flares in tandem, EarthSky reported.

AR3112 is one of the biggest sunspots on the solar surface in recent years and is reported to have more than a dozen dark cores. The area of the sunspot covers 80,700 miles (130,000 km) of solar terrain.

According to Spaceweather.com, the positive and negative polarities of the various cores of this sunspot constantly keep bumping into each other, which can produce more X-class flares.

The sunspot is now facing toward Earth and, over the period of the next two weeks, could send high amounts of solar activity towards us. So, be ready for some more geomagnetic storms, radio blackouts, and auroras.

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