TWO solar flares merged into a superflare before hitting Earth on Wednesday, according to space weather trackers.
The pair formed what is known as a “cannibal mass ejection” and sped toward us at 1.8 million miles per hour (2.9 km/h).
They shook our planet’s magnetic field on Wednesday, triggering demonstrations of northern lights to be continued today.
According to US astronomer Dr. Tony Phillips, auroras could be visible as far south as New York and North Dakota.
In the UK, skygazers in Scotland could catch a rare glimpse of the event that occurs when charged particles hit the atmosphere.
“A Cannibal CME impacted Earth’s magnetic field on March 31 (0210 UT),” wrote Dr. Phillips on his website space-weather.com.
“First contact triggered a G1 class geomagnetic storm, with the chance of stronger storms later today as Earth passes through the magnetized track of the CME.”
The streams of hot material are the result of a Frenzy of solar storms erupting from the sun this week.
A total of 17 were caught Monday by Nasa observatories exploding from the star, and at least two were fired toward Earth.
When CMEs reach Earth, they unleash what is known as a geomagnetic storm — a largely harmless disturbance of the magnetic field.
On his space weather alarm systemthe National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration warned of potential impacts on Earth.
It said G3 (strong) and G2 (moderate) geomagnetic storms were expected on Thursday and Friday respectively.
G3 storms can not only trigger auroras, but also disrupt satellites and technology on Earth.
These include intermittent problems with GPS, problems with high-frequency radio signals, and power system failures, NOAA said.
It may sound ominous, but any problems caused by the storm will be minor and extremely unlikely to affect day-to-day life.
Data on the CMEs were collected from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory and Solar and Heliospheric Observatory.
dr Phillips stressed that the storms should result in Northern Lights being visible at unusually low latitudes.
He wrote on spaceweather.com, which tracks the Sun’s activity, and said Americans should see it after dark on Wednesday.
For Europeans, the hours before sunrise on March 31 are preferred.
“Dark skies are essential when chasing the aurora; go to the country,” wrote Dr. Phillips.
“Urban glare can overpower auroras even during a strong geomagnetic storm.”
Solar storms are caused by CMEs and solar flares, which are giant ejections of hot material called plasma from the Sun’s outer layer.
They can cause the appearance of colorful auroras by energizing particles in our planet’s atmosphere
Each solar storm is graded by severity on a scale of one to five, with G1 denoting “minor” and G5 denoting “extreme.”
At the high end of the scale, storms wreak havoc on our planet’s magnetic field, which can disrupt power grids and communications networks.
“Harmful radiation from a flare cannot penetrate Earth’s atmosphere and physically affect people on the ground,” NASA says.
“However – if they are intense enough – they can disturb the atmosphere in the layer where GPS and communication signals propagate.”
Fortunately, this week’s geomagnetic storms are unlikely to significantly affect life or technology on Earth.
In the past, major solar flares wreaked havoc on our planet.
In 1989, a powerful solar flare shot down so many electrically charged particles that the Canadian province of Quebec was without electricity for nine hours.
Not only can they cause problems for our technology, but they can also harm astronauts working on the International Space Station, either by exposing them to radiation or by interfering with mission control communications.
The Earth’s magnetic field helps protect us from the more extreme effects of solar flares.
The sun is currently at the beginning of a new 11-year solar cycle, during which flares and flares usually become more intense and extreme.
These events are expected to peak around 2025, and there is hope that NASA’s Solar Orbiter spacecraft will observe them all as it aims to fly within 26 million miles of the Sun.
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https://www.thesun.ie/tech/8587152/solar-eruptions-cannibal-blaset-spark-northern-lights/ Two solar flares are merging in a ‘cannibal blast’ that could trigger Northern Lights – as seen TODAY