A solar storm and the northern lights are coming – why it could lead to disruptions

A solar storm and the northern lights are coming - why it could lead to disruptions

The Earth will be hit by a solar storm the next day: lots of charged particles emanating from the Sun. The first solar storm was less powerful than expected. But even today there is a possibility that it will hit Earth. What are the risks of such solar storms to GPS, radio and the Internet?

Earlier this week, several explosions occurred on the surface of the Sun. The first plasma clouds reached Earth on Thursday, but they didn’t have such a big impact. Another storm may follow today. We don’t know yet how strong it will be, but there is a possibility that solar storms could have an impact on the devices.

According to space weather expert Tamitha Skov, the solar storm may affect radio and GPS reception. The effect will be especially noticeable in the night hemisphere. Since the storm is expected to make landfall tonight, it may also be noticeable in the Netherlands.


Radio and GPS

But how big is the real impact? After all, solar storms can pose various risks to Earth and our technological systems. It has an impact on radio communications, especially on long and medium waves.

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Satellites can also encounter problems due to ionization in the upper atmosphere, because air resistance increases in low Earth orbit. This can affect their trajectory and lead to a loss of speed and altitude. The passage of radio signals is also disrupted, which can cause errors in GPS systems.

Power outage possible?

When solar storms are strong enough, they can enter the atmosphere. In extreme cases, it can lead to power outages, especially in areas with long power grids. In the 19th century, such a storm caused major problems and a large number of telegraph lines caught fire.

However, the chance of anything actually happening is slim. The effect is usually limited to the upper parts of the atmosphere. As a result, pilots may encounter some problems, but the average motorist should not worry. The possibility of the electricity network being affected is not great. For this reason, the storm must be exceptionally strong.

Northern lights

But even though you may not notice much of the solar storm, there is a chance you will be able to see the northern lights. The northern lights are usually only visible at the poles, but when a solar storm hits Earth, charged particles also cause this phenomenon at lower latitudes.

Yesterday, the northern lights were already visible in some parts of the United States. According to Dutch expert Ramon Oost, there is a possibility that this phenomenon will also be visible in the Netherlands, but only if the IMF reverses the (interplanetary magnetic field). This field is currently facing north, reducing the chance of the northern lights appearing in the Netherlands.

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