Solar Storms Reportedly Heading Towards Earth
A solar storm is predicted to hit earth anytime between today and Friday. The said solar storm may greatly affect earth's technology, particularly the satellites in orbit. Once hit by a solar storm, this could lead to lack of GPS navigation, satellite TV, and mobile phone signals.
In addition to effects on technology, the solar storm may cause a higher current in the earth's magnetic field which would likely cause a surge in electric power lines. This in turn could blow out electrical transformers and power stations in the area, thus causing a power outage. However, this is only likely to occur in high altitude areas that could be hit by the solar storm.
The predicted solar storm has said to open a coronal hole in the sun, according to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). These may cause a stream of solar particles to hurtle towards planet earth.
"The magnetic field of a coronal hole is different than the rest of the Sun. Instead of returning to the surface, these magnetic field lines stay open and stretch out into space," explained NOAA.
Coronal holes for one are quite common when a solar minimum approaches. A solar minimum is a period that happens every 11 years, a time when solar activity is at its lowest. The next solar minimum is said to happen between the year 2018 and 2019.
With regards to the solar storm said to hit planet earth, researchers at the University of Michigan and Rice University have come up with a tool that could protect power grids and communications satellites. Along with NOAA, they will be using a new geospace forecast model that offers unique data for every 350-square mile plot of planet earth, and also up to 45 minutes before a solar storm would hit.
"This is the first time that utility companies will have a regional forecast of space weather effects with any lead time," said Dan Welling, one of the model's developers and an assistant research scientist of U-M Department of Climate and Space Sciences and Engineering. "Compared to atmospheric weather forecasting, this sounds like a trivial step, but in terms of space weather, it's a giant leap."