A solar storm is heading towards Earth, and the images are sublime

A solar storm is heading towards Earth, and the images are sublime

This event does not present any major risk, but the auroras could be accompanied by some radio and GPS disturbances.

Astronomers who watch the sun closely have just announced that space weather could turn stormy. Specialists have announced that a coronal mass ejection, expelled by the star on July 15, is heading straight for Earth at this very moment; it could disrupt radio waves and the GPS network when it hits the Earth’s magnetic field on July 20 or 21.

The Sun is currently approaching the peak of its 11-year activity cycle. The star’s magnetic field becomes more and more turbulent, which leads to the appearance of a large number of sunspots.

We can also see emerging solar filaments; they are unstable clusters of matter confined in the form of plasma by the magnetic field. It is these spectacular swirls that can sometimes be seen standing out at the edge of the star in certain photos.

But if they delight astrophotographers, they can also be associated with solar flares and cause coronal mass ejections. The latter are large bubbles of plasma that are catapulted in a specific direction by the activity of the star, and this is precisely what happened on June 10th.

Luckily, the astrophotographer Miguel Claro was also in the ranks at this precise moment; he was able to capture exceptional images of this phenomenon of Dantesque proportions. You can find his superb work and even order a reproduction on his personal website.

Some potential disruptions, but no major risks

Since then, this mass travels straight to Earth. Its speed is moderate, but it could still have a significant impact on our planet. Specialists believe that it could generate a class G1 geomagnetic storm.

This means that it is a minor rash, but one that might come with some noticeable consequences. It should start with stunning auroras visible at high latitudes. But some annoying phenomena could also occur.

According to the official definition, these events can cause “small fluctuations in the electrical network”. They can also have a “minor impact on the operation of satellites”. Some areas may also experience interference from radio signals. The GPS network is likely to experience some minor malfunctions during this period.

On the whole, therefore, humanity can rest easy; there is no risk that this coronal mass ejection will sound the death knell of civilization as we know it. But without giving in to catastrophism, we must also remember that this is a very real and not insignificant possibility. Just think of the Carrington event to be convinced (see our article).

Unfortunately, at present, there are still no absolute countermeasures to defend against these events. While waiting for the specialists to find a solution, humanity therefore remains suspended to the vagaries of the Sun.

All that remains is to cross our fingers so that this sword of Damocles does not move an inch, and that the Sun remains wise as we approach the peak of activity expected in 2025.



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