The recent surge in solar activity has caught many astronomers off guard. There has been a significant increase in the number of solar flares erupting on the Sun, resulting in abnormally fast solar winds. In turn, this has sparked strong geomagnetic storms on Earth. This is due to the Sun being at its most volatile as it approaches its solar cycle peak. The star entered its 25th solar cycle in 2019, with the peak expected to occur in 2025. However, some studies suggest that it could arrive earlier, given the sudden surge in solar storms.
Recently, there was a series of three-day outbursts of M-class solar flares on May 3rd, 4th, and 5th, a SpaceWeather.com report confirmed. These solar flares spewed so many CMEs into space. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has suggested that at least one of these CMEs is heading for Earth. This simply means Earth is in danger of a strong geomagnetic storm, the report added.
Solar flare impact on Earth
In response to this powerful solar flare, a powerful geomagnetic storm is expected to hit Earth today. “The CME will hit Earth’s magnetic field on May 7th around 21:00 UT. The impact could spark geomagnetic storms ranging in intensity from minor (G1) to moderate (G2) and maybe even strong (G3),” NOAA mentioned. Also, when an incoming CME strikes, it can intensify on May 8th as Earth passes through the CME’s magnetized wake.
The geomagnetic storm has the potential to cause significant harm by damaging satellites, disrupting mobile phone and internet networks, causing power grid failures, blocking radio communications, and more. “During G3-class storms, auroras have been sighted in the USA as far south as Illinois and Oregon,” SpaceWeather.com mentioned.
Tech behind solar storm monitoring
Since its launch in 2016, the DSCOVR satellite has enabled NOAA to monitor solar storms and the Sun’s behavior. The collected data is then analyzed by the Space Weather Prediction Center, where various measurements are taken on factors such as temperature, speed, density, degree of orientation, and frequency of solar particles to prepare the final analysis.