A minor solar storm is traveling toward Earth and is expected to hit as early as Wednesday.
If a solar storm is powerful enough, it can damage satellites and cut power. But the incoming storm is said to be minor, even though it may create an impressive display of the Northern Lights.
A major explosion in the sun’s atmosphere known as a flare, which took place on March 6 and 7, triggered the solar storm. Charged particles from the burst are now headed straight for Earth.
Meanwhile, scientists believed the Earth’s magnetic field forms “equinox cracks” around March 20 and Sept. 23 each year. The cracks, which are said to stay open for hours, create weaknesses in Earth’s natural defenses and could leave GPS systems and commercial flights more exposed to the damaging effects of a solar storm.
But the cracks could also create amazing opportunities for stargazers to catch a better view of the Northern lights.
The dancing lights of the aurora may become visible in parts of Scotland and northern England and in northern regions of the U.S., including in Michigan and Maine.
A solar storm’s magnetic particles could also interfere with satellites orbiting the planet and radio signals.
A G1 Watch is in effect for the 14 & 15 March, 2018 UTC-days. Enhancements in the solar wind due to the anticipated effects of a coronal hole high speed stream (CH HSS) are expected to cause the escalated geomagnetic responses. Visit https://t.co/dimAHi8BFd for the latest info. pic.twitter.com/doJIzMWaGe
— NOAA Space Weather (@NWSSWPC) March 12, 2018
If a solar flare is large enough, it is capable of cutting energy supplies if massive currents are created within electricity grids.
The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration, or NOAA, released a statement that read: “A minor geomagnetic storm watch is now in effect for the 14 and 15 March, 2018. Aurora may be visible at high latitudes.”
The charged particles from a solar flare can create “weak power grid fluctuations” and have a “minor impact on satellite operations,” the NOAA said.
One of the solar flares that was created last week is said to be the largest in a cycle known as the solar minimum, which dates back to early 2007.
NOAA says the incoming solar storm is expected to be a G-1 “minor” storm. If the charged particles have a stronger effect on Earth, it could be considered a G-2 “moderate storm.”