It has been almost a week since the last solar storm hit the Earth. And it was a relatively minor storm that did not really affect us much. The worst was experienced over the Indian Ocean region where a temporary radio blackout was observed. But things are about to change quickly for the worse. NASA has issued a warning over a major solar storm strike on Earth. The initial hit is expected tomorrow, April 19, when glancing blows are expected and on April 20, a massive direct hit has been predicted. If this solar storm does strike the Earth, the impact can be far more dangerous.
The information comes from space weather physicist Tamitha Skov, who is popularly known as Space Weather Woman. In a recent tweet, she said, “Ready for #aurora? A #solarstorm direct hit is coming. NASA predicts impact 20 April. Additional glancing storms launched earlier mean activity could pick up late on April 19. Expect extended aurora at high latitudes with good chance of views down to mid-latitudes by the 20th”.
Solar storm to strike over the next two days
The source of this solar storm is a massive coronal mass ejection (CME) cloud that is headed for the Earth. The cloud is moving in a crescent shape and that is why glancing blows are expected earlier than a direct hit. However, this partial strike can have a concerning effect. It can weaken the magnetic fields of the Earth enough to create cracks on it, which can allow CME to escape into the upper atmosphere and cause a far more intense storm.
Apart from this, Skov has also revealed in her weekly forecast that there is a 10 percent chance for an X-class solar flare eruption on Sun. Such eruptions are the biggest reason behind shortwave radio blackouts and GPS disruption. If such an eruption does take place and it coincides with the solar storm, the overall impact can get more complicated.
A solar storm like that today can be quite terrifying. It can disrupt GPS, hamper mobile networks and the internet, and even cause a massive power outage by corrupting the power grids. Even the electronic devices on Earth are not safe from malfunctioning.
The role of the NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory
The NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) carries a full suite of instruments to observe the Sun and has been doing so since 2010. It uses three very crucial instruments to collect data from various solar activities. They include Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager (HMI) which takes high-resolution measurements of the longitudinal and vector magnetic field over the entire visible solar disk, Extreme Ultraviolet Variability Experiment (EVE) which measures the Sun’s extreme ultraviolet irradiance and Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA) which provides continuous full-disk observations of the solar chromosphere and corona in seven extreme ultraviolet (EUV) channels.