Home Radio waves The largest “high speed” solar storm in 4 years to hit Earth; can disrupt GPS, hit satellites

The largest “high speed” solar storm in 4 years to hit Earth; can disrupt GPS, hit satellites


An intense and powerful solar radiation storm from the largest solar flares in 4 years is moving at an estimated speed of 1.6 million kilometers per hour and is expected to strike Earth on Sunday July 11 or Monday July 12, forecasters of space weather predicted.

A “high speed” stream of highly charged particles was launched toward Earth from a gaping hole in the Sun’s atmosphere. This could trigger a minor “solar storm” in the Earth’s magnetosphere, the region that shields the planet from low-energy charged particles and shields the Earth’s magnetic field. Once they enter the magnetosphere, the particles could perhaps be guided further into the magnetic field lines and enter Earth’s atmosphere near the north and south poles, as scientists describe.

Impact caused by solar storm

As highly charged particles in the solar atmosphere with high velocities are accelerated to large fractions of the speed of light toward Earth, several large impacts are likely to be caused. “When energetic protons collide with satellites or humans in space, they can penetrate deep into the object they collide with and damage electronic circuitry or biological DNA,” Space Weather explained. Prediction Center in a statement on Saturday, July 10.

[A coronal mass ejection. Credit: NASA]

An expected S1 (Minor Radiation Storm) consequence or a much larger event such as a collision with a critical satellite is expected. Passengers and crew of aircraft flying at high altitudes may be at risk of radiation. The solar storm can cripple power grids, jam satellite communications and cause dangerous levels of radiation. When charged flares strike, they can create a layer of the ionosphere capable of absorbing high frequency (HF) radio waves that can disrupt radio communication, other high frequency communications and, on rare occasions, radio systems. global positioning (GPS).

“It’s always remarkable to me the number of people, companies, who think space weather is a Hollywood fiction,” said Caitlin Durkovich, special assistant to US President Joe Biden and senior director of resilience and health. response to the National Security Council, during a press conference. at a solar weather conference last month as she warned of the impact of solar flares.

“The danger is not hypothetical,” she continued, adding that in 2017, a solar storm made amateur radios static just as Category 5 Hurricane Irma destroyed the Caribbean and hit the Caribbean. global positioning systems in 2017, which can be detrimental. if autonomous cars with GPS [like that Tesla plans] becomes a reality. Meanwhile, airline pilots are at greater risk, she added.

[Powerful flare on 4 November 2003. Credit: NASA]

What causes “solar storms”?

Every 11 years, the sun goes through a solar cycle that fluctuates the radiation activity of solar flares. In December 2019, the sun observed its 25th cycle with a solar minimum or when activity was less intense with fewer sunspots. However, the sun’s solar flares are expected to peak in July 2025. Scientists could observe the sun’s activity in April 2024, when a total solar eclipse occurs. Solar flare eruption activity was observed last Saturday, July 3, where researchers observed about 1,500 Earth-bound flares with the energy equivalent of millions of 100-megaton hydrogen bombs exploding at the same time. time, Bill Murtagh, program coordinator at the US Space Weather Prediction Center told CNN.

Solar flares are measured by scientists as Class A flares classified as the smallest and Class X flares as the largest. The flares that are expected to cause a solar storm on July 11 or 12 are the largest category of solar flares categorized as X1 (R3 – Strong Radio Blackout) that occurred last week at 2:29 PM UTC. A massive release of energy accompanied by coronal mass ejections, or magnetic plasma bubbles, will be felt 93 million kilometers from Earth’s atmosphere, Murtagh said. Coronal mass ejection can also leave sun spots which can take weeks or months to diminish.