A coronal hole opened up on the surface of the Sun has allowed a stream of particles to escape at astronomical speeds. Unfortunately for Earth, the planet is in the crosshairs of the stream, with a barrage of particles pummelling the planet at 500 kilometres per second, or 1.8 million kilometres per hour (1.1 million MPH).
Cosmic forecasting site Space Weather stated the stream of ultrafast particles is enough to produce auroras in the Arctic.
The website said: “A solar wind stream is blowing around Earth faster than 500 km/s. This is causing geomagnetic unrest around the poles.
“Arctic auroras are likely on January 31 to February 1 in response to this stream.”
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.
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 blowouts and a loss of power.
Events like this have happened in the past, with the biggest technology-crippling solar storm coming in 1859.
During the storm, a surge in electricity during what is now known as the Carrington Event, was so strong telegraph systems went down across Europe.
There are also reports that some buildings were set on fire as a result of the electrical surge.
However, a recent study has found that these solar storms should happen every 25 years on average, meaning we are well overdue.
Research from the University of Warwick and the British Antarctic Survey analysed the last 14 solar cycles, dating back 150 years.
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The analysis showed severe magnetic storms occurred in 42 out of the last 150 years, and great super-storms occurred in six years out of 150.
The researchers said if it had hit Earth, it could have downed technology on our planet.
Lead author Professor Sandra Chapman, from the University of Warwick’s Centre for Fusion, Space and Astrophysics, said: “These super-storms are rare events but estimating their chance of occurrence is an important part of planning the level of mitigation needed to protect critical national infrastructure.
“This research proposes a new method to approach historical data, to provide a better picture of the chance of occurrence of super-storms and what super-storm activity we are likely to see in the future.”
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