Solar activity has been increasing, causing worries about the potential consequences for our planet. As anticipated, on September 17th, Earth experienced a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) emitted by the Sun. Although the initial impact did not result in a geomagnetic storm, there is a chance that minor G1-class storms may occur today as Earth continues to move through the CME.
According to NASA forecasts, this CME is expected to reach the Earth’s magnetic field late on September 19th. This effect can cause G2 geomagnetic storms, leading to the mesmerizing aurora borealis visible in the northern tier of the US from New York to Washington state. It is not expected to harm Earth’s electrical infrastructure.
Adding to the solar intrigue was the fact that earlier events included two M-class solar flares, known for their moderate intensity. These had a serious impact on one human activity – radio communication. The intense radiation from these flares led to radio blackouts on Earth. Scientists are now actively investigating the likelihood of another CME approaching us, possibly triggering another solar storm.
The first solar flare, with a magnitude of M.173, was officially recorded on Space WeatherLive’s X account at 4:18 a.m. on September 16. It resulted in a brief shortwave radio outage in the Pacific. Shortly thereafter, at 6:39 a.m., a stronger M2.92 intensity flare occurred, causing a second radio outage affecting areas of Australia and New Zealand. These disruptions affected various groups, including drone operators, mariners, radio amateurs and emergency operators who rely on shortwave radio frequencies.
Possible effects and preparedness
The increasing activity of the Sun raises significant concerns about the potential release of a powerful CME. Such an event could have serious consequences, including the destruction of small satellites, disruption of GPS and cellular networks, damage to Internet infrastructure, potential power grid failures, and corruption of sensitive ground-based electronics.
NASA’s SOHO satellite
NASA’s SOHO satellite, launched in 1995 as a joint effort between NASA and ESA, is an important tool for monitoring solar activity. Equipped with advanced instruments such as EIT, MDI and LASCO, it will record important information about the Sun’s corona, magnetic fields and more.