This Fall, the Sun entered a new solar cycle after taking a “nap” for a few years. That means the largest object in our solar system is about to get active again by 2025.
“As we emerge from solar minimum and approach Solar Cycle 25’s maximum, it is important to remember solar activity never stops; it changes form as the pendulum swings,” said Lika Guhathakurta, solar scientist at the Heliophysics Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington.
But before we finish 2020, there is a possibility we could see what some say could be the strongest solar storm of the year late Wednesday into Thursday. NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center has Geomagnetic Storm Watches issued for December 9-11. NOAA’s definition of a geomagnetic storm is a major disturbance of Earth’s magnetosphere that occurs when there is a very efficient exchange of energy from the solar wind into the space environment surrounding Earth. This may seem like something “out of this world” but in reality, we could experience several things if predictions are correct.
One of the most discussed topics this week (if the weather cooperates!) would be the ability to see the Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis, pretty far south in the United States. This could include cities from the Northeast to the Great Lakes to even into the Northern Plains.
The unfortunate part could be an interference with satellites which could lead to some periods of a loss in internet and satellite radio/television services. Electrical power grids can also be damaged with some geomagnetic events, which could lead to communication issues.
“There’s danger to communications on Earth that can be disrupted,” explained Dan Seaton, senior scientist for solar physics in NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information. “GPS could be a little less reliable during a Space Weather event, and power grids are actually vulnerable to power surges that could cause blackouts.
While this might seem like a scary event, don’t worry, this will not be a storm that will destroy our planet! You just might notice some disruptions to your every day routine.