The strongest solar storm in nearly six years hit Earth today (March 24), but strangely enough, space weather forecasters didn’t expect it.
The geomagnetic storm peaked as G4 severe on a 5-point scale used by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to rate the severity of space weather events. Not only did the storm’s unexpected ferocity make the aurora visible as far south as New Mexico in the US, it also forced spaceflight company Rocket Lab to delay the launch by 90 minutes.
Geomagnetic storms are disturbances to Earth’s magnetic field Because of the solar material from Coronal mass ejection (CME) – large ejections of plasma and magnetic field from sun atmosphere. It turns out that this particular geomagnetic storm was generated by a “stealth” CME which – as the name suggests – is hard to detect.
Related: A massive solar hurricane as high as 14 planets hurricanes spews a cloud of plasma into space. Here is the video.
Originally NOAA’s National Space Weather Service It announced a “geomagnetic storm watch” on March 22 (Opens in a new tab), took effect March 23-25 with a moderate G2 storm forecast for March 24. So forecasters weren’t caught off guard, however, and didn’t forecast the G4 storm as aggressively.
It wasn’t until 00:41 AM EDT (0441 GMT) on March 24 that NOAA raised the alert level to Severe storm from G4which after the G3 storm was stronger than expected (Opens in a new tab)It ascends to G4 at 12:04 AM EST (0404 GMT).
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American space weather forecaster Tamitha Skoff explained to Space.com in an email why the space weather community missed this latest storm.
“These almost invisible storms go much slower than volcanic volcanic massifs and it is very difficult to watch them as they leave. the sunsurface without specialized training,” she said, adding that it can also be “camouflaged” by other, denser structures that emerge from the sun, making it difficult to observe.
“That’s why it’s the cause of a ‘geomagnetic storm problem’ like the G4-level storm we are in right now.” Skoff continued.
You can learn more about these hidden solar storms at Scoff’s latest YouTube video (Opens in a new tab) where you describe space climate In more detail.
NOAA (Opens in a new tab) It classifies geomagnetic storms on a scale that runs from G1, which can cause increased auroral activity around the poles and minor fluctuations in power supplies, up to G5, which includes extremes such as the Carrington event – a massive solar storm of September 1859, which disrupted telegraph services throughout over the world and launched twilight So bright and powerful that it was visible as far south as the Bahamas.
Strong geomagnetic storms can be a nuisance to spaceflight because they increase the density of gases in the Earth’s upper atmosphere, thus increasing the resistance to Satellites and other spacecraft. in February 2022 SpaceX has lost up to 40 new Starlink satellites When they failed to reach orbit after being launched into a minor geomagnetic storm.
Rocket Lab delayed its launch this morning by about 90 minutes Evaluation of evolving conditions (Opens in a new tab) The company announced on Twitter about the geomagnetic storm. It was successfully launched at 5:14 AM EST (0914 GMT).
Another side effect of powerful geomagnetic storms is the amazing displays of auroras that they give off. When energetic particles from the sun collide Earth’s atmosphere At speeds of up to 45 million miles per hour (72 million kilometers per hour), our planet’s magnetic field directs particles toward the poles. Supercharged particles in Earth’s atmosphere trigger colorful scenes, which usually remain restricted to regions at high latitudes. This time, sky watchers around the world were treated to a dazzling auroral display that reached as far south as Colorado and New Mexico.
We can expect more extreme space weather events like this powerful geomagnetic storm as the sun heads toward the climax 11-year solar activity cycleIt is expected to happen in 2025.
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