While the Sun was looking relatively calm, a massive explosion suddenly occurred. Thankfully for NASA, its Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) picked up on the flare which blasted from the surface on August 13. Cosmic forecasting site Space Weather stated that the explosion happened because magnetic fields in the Sun’s atmosphere became unstable and needed to “reorganise themselves”.
Space Weather continued: “Yesterday, Aug. 13th, a completely unexpected explosion occurred on the spotless sun.
“Coronagraphs onboard the orbiting Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) recorded a cloud of debris billowing away from the blast site.
“The slow-moving cloud is not heading for Earth. It will sail wide of our planet and not cause a geomagnetic storm. If the blast site had been facing Earth, the story might be different.
“Coils of strong magnetism evident in the structure of the cloud could cause strong auroras and other effects if they made contact with Earth’s magnetosphere.”
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The solar explosion was unexpected
Auroras, which include northern lights – aurora borealis – and southern lights – aurora australis, are caused when solar particles hit the atmosphere.
As the magnetosphere gets bombarded by solar winds, stunning blue lights can appear as that layer of the atmosphere deflects the particles.
However, researchers also note the consequences of a solar storm and space weather can extend beyond northern or southern lights.
For the most part, the Earth’s magnetic field protects humans from the barrage of radiation which comes from sunspots, but solar storms can affect satellite-based technology.
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The unexpected storm hit on August 13
Solar winds can heat the Earth’s outer atmosphere, causing it to expand.
This can affect satellites in orbit, potentially leading to a lack of GPS navigation, mobile phone signal and satellite TV such as Sky.
Additionally, a surge of particles can lead to high currents in the magnetosphere, which can lead to higher than normal electricity in power lines, resulting in electrical transformers and power stations blow outs and a loss of power.
Solar storms can even weaken the Van Allen Belts – two radiation belts that surround the Earth and add reinforcement against cosmic particles.
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Solar storms can cause auroras
“We find that for a one-in-100-year event the gross domestic product loss to the United Kingdom could be as high as £15.9bn.”
Joseph Pelton, the former dean of the International Space University (ISU) in Strasbourg, said we are helpless against a potential huge solar storm and it could destroy our infrastructure.
He previously said: “A massive coronal mass ejection that brings millions of tons of ions travelling perhaps at 2 million kilometres an hour, similar to the Carrington Event of 1859, might leave the world’s economic systems and global infrastructure in shambles.
“This cosmic menace could knock out the time synchronisation of the global internet, which is essential for it to continue to function day in, day out.”
The Met Office has previously warned we will face a monumental solar storm in the future, which could knock out Britain’s technology and cost the UK almost £16billion in damages.
Auroras occur when solar particles bombard Earth’s atmosphere
The country could be plunged into a blackout because it is not prepared enough for powerful solar storms, the Met Office told ministers.
The weather forecaster believes the UK does not have sufficient infrastructure to prepare ourselves for such an event.
A researcher from the Met Office said: “We find that for a one-in-100-year event, with no space weather forecasting capability, the gross domestic product loss to the United Kingdom could be as high as £15.9bn.
“With existing satellites nearing the end of their life, forecasting capability will decrease in coming years, so if no further investment takes place, critical infrastructure will become more vulnerable to space weather.”