The sun is in the middle of a solar storm resulting in a solar tsunami which sent waves of geomagnetic waves 93 million miles towards our Earth. This provoked amazing northern lights display visible to many across the globe. NASA’a Solar Dynamics Observatory launched in February captured images of this mass ejection. The surface of the sun erupted early Sunday morning basting plasma ionized atoms into the interplantary space. It took 2 days for these atoms to travel the 93 million miles.
When such coronal mass reaches our planet, it interacts with the magnetic field creating a geomagnetic storm. The solar particles go down the field lines towards our planet’s poles and upon collision with oxygen and nitrogen atoms in the atmosphere glow like small neon signs. Though the Aurora is visible at high altitudes close to the Arctic; the geomagnetic storm pulls the Aurora south and can be visible at lower altitudes as well.
Most parts of northern America, specifically Michigan had clear skies through the week and got to witness this mesmerizing display. Denmark got great views too. Despite being in the same geomagnetic latitude, UK missed out on the display.
The Earth’s atmosphere filters out all of the radiation from such solar blasts and the magnetic field deflects any magnetic particles that may have been produced. However, with the news of the solar tsunami, while some people looked forward to the lights display; other readied themselves for an electronic Armageddon.
There is a regular activity cycle on the Sun lasting about 11 years on an average. 2001 saw the last solar maximum and this latest eruption shows that the Sun is heading to another maximum. When the solar particles interact with our magnetic field, there could be geomagnetic storms in our planet’s magnetosphere.
Experts say that the radiation nearly never makes it to the ground. It could be possible though that passengers and pilots in an airplane may get exposed to increased radiation levels just like getting an Xray.
Though the possibility is thought of as being remote, our satellites could be affected by these solar particles. There could be grave consequences as well. A similar solar blast earlier this year had permanently knocked out Galaxy 15 of the Orbital Sciences Corp. NASA had also warned that electrical grids could be crippled for years causing damages to the tune of billions due to electric pulses from the sun.
Years ago, these solar tsunamis were thought to be optical illusion. One wave had risen more than the Earth’s diameter and the ripples were in circular patterns that were millions of miles in width. With NASA’s Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory spacecraft finally the phenomena was confirmed as real.
There are repeated reports that solar tsunamis do not pose any threat to our planet and could infact be used to study and forecast space weather and conditions on the sun. However, there are Cosmo Theorists who believe recent tragedies like the Leh cloudburst were a result of the solar tsunami. It seems to have hit glaciers, mountains and ripped apart clouds connecting the solar tsunami to flood tragedies in several regions. The irregular sun at this time means the resultant effects will be marginal.