Solar storms in the coming days could have a violent impact on Earth. Know all about the Russell-McPherron effect.
Earth has been increasingly subject to the onslaught of solar storms since the beginning of 2022. Some of the solar storms we’ve experienced have been quite devastating. Elon Musk led SpaceX to its worst when more than 40 Starlink satellites were destroyed in a solar storm earlier this year. We have also seen multiple radio jamming and GPS jamming. But now things get even more terrifying. Over the next three days, Earth’s main line of defense against solar storms — the magnetosphere — will weaken, causing even the faint solar storms to wreak havoc on Earth. But why will this happen and what could its impact be? Read on to find out.
Solar storms have a terrifying effect as Earth’s defenses weaken
According to an report by SpaceWeather.com, Tromso, Norway, experienced an extreme aurorae event yesterday, September 20. Markus Varik, an aurora guide and witness to the incident, said the aurora borealis moved in all sorts of directions, including “swirls, spikes, curtains, draperies” and more. While surprising, this was not unexpected.
The period around the equinox is considered the best time to see an aurora. This happens because of a peculiar phenomenon called the Russell-McPherron effect. In simple words, around the equinox, Earth’s magnetosphere begins to develop cracks everywhere. This allows even small solar winds to penetrate the Earth’s atmosphere and display auroras. And the autumnal equinox is just three days away.
However, the generally harmless phenomenon that allows people to see these fantastic lights is a very scary proposition. As the Sun moves closer to its maximum solar phase, solar storms have bombarded the planet left and right. Some of these storms have even reached G3 class in intensity. With Earth’s main line of defense down, these solar storms can become extremely destructive. Events such as the burning down of the Starlink satellites can happen again and worse this time.
Earth can see massive damage to lower-orbit satellites, a major disruption of GPS on which most of its transportation depends. Mobile network and internet services are also not spared. Worst of all, Earth’s power grids could be damaged and shut down. If this happens, Earth will be a cold, dark, and disjointed place, just like the Dark Ages.
The technology that monitors the solar storm
A National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) geostationary satellite called GOES-16 (Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites) has equipped an instrument called EXIS (Extreme Ultraviolet and X-Ray Irradiance Sensor). Due to its high radiation tolerance, it can work over hours and even when something extremely light sensitive is happening on the sun. This makes it a very effective tool for forecasting space weather, solar flares and solar storm warnings.