NASA has warned about the potential impacts of “swirling Sun debris” created by a solar storm likely to hit the Earth by December 11. The agency said a coronal mass ejection (CME) of plasma and magnetic field escaped the Sun earlier this week and is expected to possibly strike by Saturday. Astronomers and space scientists say the NASA warning suggests the recent filament eruption is likely to give a “glancing blow” to the south of Earth. There is likely to be a mild disturbance to radio and GPS services but the aurora, a natural light display in Earth’s sky, will possibly be visible in high altitude regions.
Solar storms or CMEs are not a new phenomenon and they occur from time to time. When the Sun releases energy (plasma), it is accompanied by the magnetic field from its corona. They escape the Sun and travel with the solar wind, which takes it to other parts of the solar system. The US Space Weather Prediction Centre says CMEs can escape the Sun at breakneck speeds and reach the Earth in as little as 15-18 hours. But NASA has said the recent CME was cast towards the Earth on Monday. That it will reach our planet by Saturday suggests it is not one of the fastest moving CMEs. However, astronomers say the “swirling debris” caused by the explosion in the Sun will barely miss the Earth. They expect the debris to fly just south of the planet and are unlikely to create any geometric storms. However, auroras could be seen around the poles.
Dr Tamitha Skov, a space weather physicist, told the Express that this CME could cause mild disruption to the southern part of Earth. “NASA predictions show a recent filament eruption looks to deliver a glancing blow to the south of Earth by late December 11. Expect a mild disturbance, but the aurora is possible at high latitudes with sporadic amateur radio and GPS issues on Earth’s nightside,” Skov said.