Earth to be hit by solar storm after huge hole opens up in the sun
Another coronal hole has opened up in the sun, blasting out gases expected to hit Earth on Thursday and Friday.
The solar storm will be the second in a week, after the solar wind from a hole “thirty times the size of Earth” ignited the Aurora Australis last Friday, creating a dazzling light show seen from Tasmania and southern locations across the mainland.
WATCH THE VIDEO ABOVE: The southern lights shine bright over Perth, leaving stargazers amazed.
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The new hole discovered on Tuesday is slightly smaller than the last, but still spans “20 times the size of Earth”, with winds of up to 2.9 million km/h heading towards us.
However, only “Arctic auroras are likely when the solar wind arrives,” according to Live Science.
Solar storms affect the Earth’s magnetic field and have the ability to disrupt GPS and radio signals, prompting fears of major blackouts.
University of Newcastle physicist and solar expert Dr Hannah Schunker told The Guardian earlier that the storms can “generate currents that can interfere with electronics. This can mean anything from interfering with satellites in orbit around the Earth, down to affecting power lines on the surface”.
“If the storm is very strong, it can interfere with your power, it could completely take out a power system, so there’d be a localised blackout, if there was enough damage at a power station.”
NASA reports than in 1989, Canada’s Quebec province suffered widespread blackouts after a solar storm knocked out the power grid just days after a huge coronal mass ejection was witnessed on the sun.
“It was like the energy of thousands of nuclear bombs exploding at the same time. The storm cloud rushed out from the sun, straight towards Earth, at a million miles an hour,” NASA said.
The geomagnetic storm expected this week is labelled as a G2 or moderate storm by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and impacts to technology and infrastructure from such storms are generally small.
A stronger geomagnetic storm triggered by a burst of solar energy could overwhelm the nation’s power grid and shut down phone towers and communication networks.
The storms can also trigger stunning auroras across the globe, as they hit our atmosphere and excite the gases within.
The Aurora Australis and the Aurora Borealis “are essentially storms that leave the sun, travel through space, and then slam into the Earth’s atmosphere,” ANU Astrophysicist Brad Tucker told 7NEWS.com.au.
“Because the gas that leaves the sun is essentially electrically charged — it’s plasma — as it hits our atmosphere it kind of creates electrical currents.
“So, you get this electrically charged gas hitting our magnetic bubble and this excites the gas in our atmosphere and that makes it glow the green, and purple and red colours. It’s nature’s neon light.”
The sun’s magnetic field flips every 11 years, Tucker said, and during that time more energy is blasted outwards from the sun.
“You actually get peaks where you get years of good (aurora) viewing, and years of less. We’ve just entered that period, so the next three to four years, we’ll have more common occurrences of aurora,” Tucker told 7NEWS.com.au.
The solar storm in the next few days is not expected to impact Earth greatly, but is another sign of larger coronal blasts to come.
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