A massive bout of solar wind released from the Sun has ripped a hole in Earth’s magnetic field. The hole was caused by a mysterious shock wave in the solar wind, scientists say, and it was expected to lead to the formation of geomagnetic storms, according to spaceweather.com.
While it seems we might have missed the brunt of the storms, as they were expected to hit yesterday, having a hole in the magnetic field that protects our planet is not great news. This is because solar wind energy or any other sun-generated solar energy can pass through our atmosphere and interact with it, potentially causing blackouts in GPS and others.
The shockwave that caused the hole in the Earth’s magnetic field is believed to have come from a sunspot known as AR3165, which recently erupted in eight solar flares on December 14. These flurries resulted in a blackout over the Atlantic Ocean. We may see it again, depending on the time the magnetic field repairs itself.
What is reassuring is that this hole isn’t something that is expected to last forever. This happens regularly as solar wind and flares strike our planet’s magnet field. It’s therefore not uncommon for holes to form in our magnetic fields. They often heal themselves within a few hours. But, any sun energy that passes through can cause radio signal interference.
While this most recent hole in Earth’s magnetic field might not be that dangerous, there are solar flares and coronal mass ejections that can cause much bigger problems. If strong enough they can disrupt radio and GPS signals in major cities, as well as other vital signals, even across entire countries. And, with the Sun’s cycle still ramping up, it’s essential to keep an eye on things.
Solar flares can also make for a beautiful but terrifying spectacle, as seen in a NASA video capturing a solar flare’s eruption. While this most recent flare wasn’t as powerful as some of the X-1 flares we’ve seen, it was still strong enough to rip a hole in the Earth’s magnetic field. Thankfully any possible geomagnetic storms that might have hit weren’t worse than they were.
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