A “severe” solar storm creates a stunning aurora – DW – 05/11/2024

A “severe” solar storm creates a stunning aurora – DW – 05/11/2024

The most powerful solar storm in more than two decades hit Earth on Friday (05/10/2024), causing a spectacular aurora and threatening potential disruption to satellites and power grids as it continues through the weekend.

The first coronal mass ejections (CMEs), large emissions of plasma and magnetic fields from the Sun, occurred shortly after 6:00 PM CET, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Some time later, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) classified the geomagnetic storm as “severe,” the first since several in October 2003 caused power outages in Sweden and damaged energy infrastructure in South Africa.

More coronal ejections are expected to impact the planet in the coming days.

On Friday, social media was filled with photos of the aurora borealis captured in northern Europe and Australia.

“Bible Skies” in Tasmania

“We just woke up the kids to see the northern lights in the backyard! They are clearly visible,” Ian Mansfield, a member of a research center in Hertford, Britain, told AFP.

People gather at Crosby Beach to watch the polar lights, also known as the northern lights, in Crosby, Great Britain.Photo: Adam Vaughan/EPA

Others such as photographer Sean O' Riordan reported on photographs of “quite Biblical skies in Tasmania at 4:00am”.

The authorities asked satellite operators, airlines and power grid operators to take precautionary measures against possible disturbances caused by changes in the Earth's magnetic field.

However, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said it “does not anticipate any significant impact on the country's airspace system.”

Unlike solar flares, which travel at the speed of light and are able to reach Earth in eight minutes, CMEs travel at a slower pace of 800 kilometers per second.

Meteorologists hope they can better determine the impact they will have when they are 1.6 million kilometers away.

The northern lights shine in the night sky over the town of Daelens, Switzerland. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said the strongest geomagnetic storm in 20 years is about to hit Earth, making the northern lights visible at much lower geomagnetic latitudes than usual.Photo: Laurent Guilleron/EPA

They can cause power outages and impacts on GPS and birds.

Magnetic fields associated with geomagnetic storms induce currents in long conductors, including power cables, which can cause power outages.

Impacts may also occur on high frequency radio communications, GPS, spacecraft and satellites.

Even pigeons and other species with biological compasses can be affected.

But it can also lead to other effects, such as the appearance of the aurora borealis — known as the aurora borealis or the aurora australis, depending on the hemisphere — in places where they would not normally be visible.

The largest solar storm on record was the Carrington Event of 1859: it destroyed the US telegraph network, caused an electrical discharge, and the northern lights were seen at unprecedented latitudes, as far as Central America.


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