Sorry preppers. Your visions of Mad Max living will have to wait a bit. The sun has decided to give us quite the show, firing off two coronal mass ejections (CME) this week. On Wednesday, a X1.6 erupted from an active region on the sun.
There have been bigger flares of late, but this one was Earth-directed. So cue the hysteria and one great astronomical show. Yes, you will read the blog posts about the Carrington event. Yes, it is possible for a CME to hit Earth and toss us back to the dark ages. This would mean your Apple Watch would not be able to trade heartbeats with others.
Space weather experts say that a CME was produced by the same region of the sun and is heading towards Earth. This follows a M-class solar flare that also produced a CME on Tuesday. M-class flares are less powerful than the X-class.
So, what kind of impacts are we expecting. Hopefully one hell of a light show. Nasa’s Tony Phihilips talked to Spaceweather.com about the CMEs and potential impacts. “The two solar storm clouds were launched on Sept. 9th and 10th by strong explosions in the magnetic canopy of sunspot AR2158. NOAA forecasters estimate a nearly 80 percent chance of polar geomagnetic storms on Sept. 12th when the first of the two CMEs arrives.”
“Radio emissions from shock waves at the leading edge of the CME suggest that the cloud tore through the sun’s atmosphere at speeds as high as 3750 km/s (over 8 million miles per hour). That would make this a very fast moving storm, and likely to reach Earth before the weekend.”
Northern Lights Display
One great thing about CMEs is that places that normally miss out on the aurora borealis, often referred to as northern lights, get a chance to see it. Having lived in Iceland, I’ve been able to see them. It’s absolutely incredible.
The bigger the solar storm, the more likely southern latitudes will get a chance to see auroral displays. In the most extreme cases, the solar plasma will come through the Earth’s atmosphere and interact with oxygen. This can in turn affect the power grids. Definitely something we don’t want to happen. No one wants to wake up one day and none of the lights come one.
For those of us too far to the south to see the auroral fireworks, there are livestreams. It isn’t as good as the real thing, but at least you get to watch.
Bookmark Slooh.com for its livestream.
Image Credit: NASA