Solar storm warning: Air traffic faces disruption as a large sunspot turns toward Earth

Solar storm warning: Air traffic faces disruption as a large sunspot turns toward Earth

Experts have warned that a massive sunspot at the far end of the Sun is headed our way this weekend, which could trigger a potential geomagnetic storm that could disrupt satellites and even wreak havoc on Earth’s solar systems. air navigation These sunspots, as they are known, appear darker than their surroundings on the Sun’s surface and can extend for hundreds of millions of miles.

Sunspots are the result of magnetic disruptions in the photosphere, the lowest layer of the Sun’s atmosphere, with these disturbances exposing the cooler layers of the star below.

According to experts at Spaceweather.com, the sunspot is “so big it’s changing the way the sun vibrates.”

If the darkened region of the Sun strikes by unleashing a solar flare toward Earth, it could affect Earth’s magnetic field and cause disruptions to GPS and communication satellites orbiting near the planet, as well as disrupting Earth’s navigation systems. airplane

The US-based National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Space Weather Prediction Center predicted that over the weekend, the geomagnetic field around Earth would be unstable.

This prediction suggests regions in the higher northern latitudes could see dazzling auroras, although it’s unclear whether it will develop into a full-blown solar storm.

While the current sunspot was on the far side of the Sun, scientists were able to track it by studying how it affected the star’s vibrations.

Speaking to Live Science, Dean Pesnell, project scientist at NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), said: “The Sun is constantly vibrating because of the convection bubbles hitting the surface.”

Temperature differences within the Sun cause hot and cool bubbles to rise and fall continuously, which moves energy and causes vibrations that can be detected by solar observatories like NASA’s SDO.

READ MORE: Solar storm horror: Sun explosion threatens power grid failure

Solar flares are triggered by a process called “magnetic reconnection”, in which the geometry of the Sun’s plasma magnetic field is altered.

These eruptions could impact Earth by heating clouds of electrically charged particles in the Sun’s upper atmosphere to extremely high temperatures, triggering a mass of coronal plasma mass ejections (CMEs).

Pesnell noted that Earth is likely to see solar flares headed its way and that there could be some CMEs.

The NASA expert noted: “Solar flares and CMEs are the main way solar activity affects Earth.

“From my work, higher levels of solar activity mean increased drag on near-Earth orbiting satellites, and satellite operators will lose revenue if that drag deorbits a satellite in operation”.


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