Although it does not pose any danger to public health, the arrival of this solar storm on our planet could affect satellites, GPS, and numerous telecommunications systems.
On July 11, a solar flare caught the attention of space observatory personnel from practically the entire planet. This phenomenon, which usually occurs in the atmosphere of the star king, consists of “a sudden emission of electromagnetic radiation and energetic particles located in a small region of the solar atmosphere”, point out David Montes and Gonzalo José Carracedo in The Conversation. It came from a solar region where its magnetic field is particularly strong and complex, causing these flares to travel at the speed of light.
However, these phenomena do not always occur spontaneously but are the result of a much larger process like the one the Sun is experiencing right now. Inside, the same magnetic field that caused the flare that was seen on July 11 continued to twist to throw huge amounts of solar plasma into space. This phenomenon known as a coronal mass ejection travels at a slower speed than ejections and is precisely what has happened throughout the past week.
Forecasts indicate that next Thursday, July 21, it will reach Earth
It was on July 15 when one of them left the Sun in the direction of the Earth and, despite its slower speed, the forecasts of the NOAA (Center for Space Weather Detection, for its acronym in English) indicate that next Thursday 21 July will reach Earth.
How could this phenomenon affect telecommunications?
The physics of these solar phenomena has not yet been studied in detail, but all indications seem to indicate that they are mainly magnetic and that they occur approximately every 11 years. It is then that the Sun undergoes its periods of greatest magnetic activity, known as solar maxima, in which the frequency of this type of event is especially high. It is precisely now that the Sun is approaching the peak of its current cycle and it is estimated that it will reach its maximum throughout 2024.
A coronal mass ejection can affect the Earth in different ways: while it is common for it to be accompanied by polar auroras, its interaction with the Earth’s magnetosphere can cause it to compress and modify its structure, generating new, more complex magnetic fields that add to the Earth’s already existing magnetic field. This phenomenon is called a geomagnetic storm and its effects could be felt in disturbances in radio and satellite communications, as well as power outages in the most extreme cases.
NOAA has estimated that this geomagnetic storm will be level 1, the lowest, and could cause fluctuations in the electrical grid, in addition to having a reduced impact on satellite operations on Earth. Although it will not be the most intense episode recorded to date, the history books remember the year 1859 as the one that gave rise to the Carrington effect: that year, a great geomagnetic storm with the same origin caused the failure of the telegraph networks of Europe and North America, as well as setting receptions on fire and causing several electrocutions in a world that was not half as dependent on telecommunications as it is today.