Navigation & radio devices may experience short blackouts as solar storms is headed straight toward earth.
As the Sun is currently reaching the peak of its 11 year solar cycle, solar activity is expected to increase, as are the risks of possible solar flares & coronal mass ejections (CMEs) that could send some rough space weather into earth orbit.
Astronomers have been watching the Sun closely to see which regions of the Sun are experiencing changes in their magnetic flux, keeping a close eye on them to determine if they result in solar flare or subside with-out making much difference to space-weather.
Sunspots, sun filaments, and prominence
Last week, dynamics on the solar surface took a new turn as gradually increasing sunspots took the shape of sun filaments. Each filament was as long as the distance between the earth & moon. These filaments, known to be highly unstable, these filaments held-on for a few days before falling apart earlier this week, sending a solar flare straight to Earth.
Astronomers have also detected a prominence on the Sun, a phenomenon that is also a regular phenomenon on the solar surface but does not result to a solar flare.
The prominence of the Solar remains anchored tied to the Sun and does not cause bad solar weather. Solar flares aren’t all that generous, however, and can get really annoying, especially for spacecraft that don’t have protection of multiple layers of earth atmosphere.
Earlier this year, Elon Musk’s SpaceX lost 40 satellites, barely reaching orbit. Astronomers have found that increased solar activity can bring other smaller satellites (CubeSats) out of orbit up to 10 times faster than normal, the Evening Standard revealed.
What to expect in the next few days?
The broken filament also sends a CME toward Earth, which is approaching quite slowly, Spaceweather.com reported. It expected to arrive either on 20 july or 21 july. Highly charged particles in CMEs & solar flares can ionize the upper layers of the atmosphere that we use for GPS & radio communications. Thus, radio blackouts are the most common effect of solar activity.
According to Space Weather Prediction Centre of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Adminstration, a G1-class geomagnetic storm has been observed over the past 24 hours and it is expected to occur on 21 july & 22 july. During this period, small power fluctuations can be observed on the grid, while the aurora is also visible at high latitudes.
These predictions are based on mathematical models that astronomers have created after decades of studying solar data. However, these methods are not 100% accurate & solar weather may differ from these predictions. Recently, a geomagnetic storm caused by factors that are not normally observed by scientific instruments hit Earth at a speed of million miles per hour.
Aside from preparing in the event of a radio blackout, there is little we can do now if space weather worsens.