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Powerful solar flare is heading to Earth today, space weather experts warn

Updated Jul 19th, 2022 4:43PM EDT
A big sun surface with solar flares.
Image: joelia / Adobe

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A space weather expert says that an intense solar storm is heading directly towards Earth. Dr. Tamitha Skov, who goes by the name Space Weather Woman on social media, shared a tweet on July 16 warning of the solar storm heading to Earth. The storm is expected to hit Earth today and could cause radio blackouts and other problems.

Intense solar storm heading to Earth, could cause radio blackouts

Dr. Tamitha Skov shared the tweet warning of the solar flare heading to Earth on July 16. However, the flare appears to have erupted sometime late on July 15 or early July 16, based on a prediction model shared on Twitter. As with any solar eruption, the speed of the particles can vary, thus changing the time it takes to reach our planet.

Dr. Skov notes that the eruption on the Sun was shaped very similarly to a snake, and you can even see the filament in a secondary tweet that she shared. Currently, there does not appear to be any mention of this particular eruption on NASA’s official channels. However, Dr. Skov has previously worked with NASA, the Weather Channel, PopSci, and several other channels and outlets.

Because the solar storm heading to Earth is expected to interact directly with the Earth’s magnetic field, amateur radio and GPS users should expect some signal disruptions on Earth’s nightside, Dr. Skov notes. Additionally, a strong aurora presence will be possible, too. As such, sky watchers may want to set aside additional time this evening to search for these phenomena.

Increasing activity

Earth's magnetic field reacting to solar stormImage source: koya979 / Adobe

This is just the latest in a long line of solar eruptions that have rocked the Sun in recent weeks. The Sun, which works off an 11-year cycle, is now reaching the peak of that cycle. As a result, the number of solar eruptions has increased. With that increase comes an even bigger chance of those solar eruptions creating solar storms heading towards Earth.

That’s what happened with this particular eruption, as the Earth faced that side of the Sun when it erupted. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to tell what kind of scale of issues the eruption may cause when it hits Earth’s magnetic field. Because of the intense energy included in these solar storms, it may also cause issues with many satellites currently in orbit.

New reports have also warned that there could be some delay to traveling when the solar storm connects with Earth’s magnetic field. The storm may cause some issues with the train signals used in many countries worldwide. Additionally, because the storm is expected to be so powerful, GPS signals may not work throughout most of the day. You may want to look into backup options if you rely on GPS daily.

We’ve seen this happen recently, too. A solar storm that hit Earth earlier this year caused the remnants of a Russian rocket booster to fall out of orbit faster. The booster re-entered the atmosphere, leaving fiery streaks in the sky over Montana. We could see more incidents like this in the coming months as solar activity continues to increase.

Josh Hawkins has been writing for over a decade, covering science, gaming, and tech culture. He also is a top-rated product reviewer with experience in extensively researched product comparisons, headphones, and gaming devices.

Whenever he isn’t busy writing about tech or gadgets, he can usually be found enjoying a new world in a video game, or tinkering with something on his computer.