Solar flare and powercut warning issued as geomagnetic storm expected to hit Earth
A massive solar flare is heading towards earth Earth today, which could cause power outages, satellite disruptions and an aurora in northern latitudes.
The flare comes as we enter a period of increased solar activity, and was identified on Saturday.
The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa) is advising that in higher latitude areas where the earth is more exposed, the flare could cause power grid fluctuations.
It could also cause the Northern Lights to be visible across Scotland, and even parts of northern England.
Noaa said: “Event analysis and model output suggest CME arrival around midday on 11 October, with lingering effects persisting into 12 October.”
This means it is likely to hit during the evening in the UK.
The geomagnetic storm could hit category G2, which is considered moderately strong by the agency.
Solar storms are rated on a scale from G1 to G5 – with one being the weakest in terms of damage but still having the potential to create issues for billions.
With the trajectory leading for a direct hit, the administration has warned that the emission could cause power supplies to fluctuate and satellites could experience “orientation irregularities”.
The Met Office said: “Aurora is possible through 11th across much of Scotland, although cloud amounts are increasing, meaning sightings are unlikely.
“There is a slight chance of aurora reaching the far north of England and Northern Ireland tonight, but cloud breaks and therefore sightings are more likely in Northern Ireland.”
It is also believed the Northern Lights could be seen as far south as New York.
A solar flare is a flash of increased brightness on the sun, which is usually seen near its surface and close to a sunspot group (areas of reduced surface temperature which appear as darker spots).
Flares are often accompanied by a coronal mass ejection (CME), which is a significant release of plasma and magnetic field from the solar corona – the aura of plasma that surrounds the sun, as well as other stars, and is most visible during an eclipse.
Solar flares emit radio waves, which can disturb the Earth’s atmosphere if they travel in the direction of our planet. This can cause auroras and disrupt power grids and radio signals.
Space weather is primarily caused by the sun when its surface is more active than normal. It can send energised particles out in all directions, which can be observed through the Northern Lights and the Southern Lights.
Although the 1859 solar storm Carrington Event is the largest solar storm ever recorded, Monday’s flare is not expected to cause widespread disruption.