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A solar storm passed by Earth today (15 June) and could spark a geomagnetic storm that may last for days.
The coronal mass ejection (CME) gave us a 'glancing blow' at around 04:37am and according to experts, could cause power outages in the coming hours, among other effects.
CMEs are enormous expulsions of plasma from the sun’s outer layer – or corona – and can cause power grid fluctuations.
SpaceWeather.com astronomers recorded an ‘explosion of growing sunspot’ in the early hours of this morning, which produced an eight-hour-long solar flare.
The flare measures as an M3.4, meaning it was considered a ‘medium’ solar outburst.
Earth’s atmosphere was ionised by the blast, leading to radio blackouts over Japan and southeast Asia, according to the outlet.
A Spaceweather.com update reads: “Storms may occur in the hours ahead as Earth moves into the CME's dense, magnetised flank.”
Here on Earth, we’re normally protected from CMEs by earth’s magnetic field, however the more severe consequences of solar flares can’t always be stopped.
Solar storms that hit earth are graded by severity, with ‘G1-class’ being bottom of the ranking.
Listing possible effects of a G1 storm, the site notes: “Migratory animals are affected at this and higher levels; aurora is commonly visible at high latitudes.”
At the other end of the spectrum is a G5 storm, which SpaceWeather considers ‘extreme’.
If Earth were to be hit by a solar flare of this magnitude, we could expect ‘widespread voltage control problems’ and ‘grid system blackouts’.
Satellite navigation would also be ‘degraded for days’ and low-frequency radio navigation would likely be out for hours.
It’s not the first time a solar flare came close to Earth's magnetic field this month, though.
Experts confirmed on 2 June that an eruption took place on the sun, hurling a solar flare into space.
According to The Sun, weather experts explained at the time: "Yesterday, a magnetic filament on the sun erupted, hurling a faint CME into space.
"NOAA forecasters say it could hit Earth's magnetic field on June 5th or 6th.
"Even weak CME strikes can cause geomagnetic storms, so there is a chance of minor G1-class storms when the CME arrives."
All this increased amount of activity on the sun's surface comes during a time period of unprecedented space activity from Earth - which could massively affect the number of commercial satellites in earth's orbit most vulnerable to solar eruptions.
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