High speed solar storm set to hit Earth today: GPS, internet, satellite TVs may be impacted
New Delhi, July 13: A high-speed solar storm approaching Earth is expected to hit our planet's magnetic field later today, causing major impact on communication infrastructure around the world.
According to NASA, at a speed of 1.6 million kilometres per hour, the storm is expected to hit the Earth's upper atmosphere, impacting GPS navigation, mobile phone signals and satellite TV.
What is a geomagnetic storm?
According to the Space Weather Prediction Centre of the United States, A geomagnetic storm is a major disturbance of Earth's magnetosphere that occurs when there is a very efficient exchange of energy from the solar wind into the space environment surrounding Earth.
These storms result from variations in the solar wind that produces major changes in the currents, plasmas, and fields in Earth's magnetosphere. The solar wind conditions that are effective for creating geomagnetic storms are sustained (for several to many hours) periods of high-speed solar wind, and most importantly, a southward directed solar wind magnetic field (opposite the direction of Earth's field) at the dayside of the magnetosphere. This condition is effective for transferring energy from the solar wind into Earth's magnetosphere.
The largest storms that result from these conditions are associated with solar coronal mass ejections (CMEs) where a billion tons or so of plasma from the sun, with its embedded magnetic field, arrives at Earth. CMEs typically take several days to arrive at Earth, but have been observed, for some of the most intense storms, to arrive in as short as 18 hours.
What is a solar storm?
Solar storm is a temporary disturbance of the Earth's magnetosphere caused by a solar wind shock wave and/or cloud of magnetic field that interacts with the Earth's magnetic field.
Solar storms can last only a few minutes to several hours but the affects of geomagnetic storms can linger in the Earth's magnetosphere and atmosphere for days to weeks.
According to NASA, the biggest flares are known as "X-class flares" based on a classification system that divides solar flares according to their strength. The smallest ones are A-class (near background levels), followed by B, C, M and X.
Similar to the Richter scale for earthquakes, each letter represents a 10-fold increase in energy output. So an X is ten times an M and 100 times a C. Within each letter class there is a finer scale from 1 to 9.