Solar storm could trigger mass power outages after ‘snowploughing’ plasma towards Earth

An ongoing solar storm could trigger mass power outages on Earth as plasma is “snowploughed” towards our planet.

The volatile conditions on the surface of the sun have already disrupted satellites and sparked geomagnetic storms in two US states, weather data shows.

A coronal mass ejection storm (CME) observed on Friday is just the most recent of a series of storms as the sun undergoes a period heightened activity.

These storms involve a huge expulsion of plasma from the Sun’s outer layer, called the corona.

The Irish Mirror reports they are caused by a mass ejection of particles from the Sun and travel through the atmosphere with the potential to collide with whatever is in its path.

They usually avoid the Earth, however, as it uses its magnetic field to avoid the blasts.

It acts as a shield which helps protect us from the more extreme consequences of solar ejections and flares, but it can’t stop all of them.

When an ejection hits Earth directly, it can create an intense solar storm causing problems with the power grid, satellite communications and radio blackouts.

In 1989, a strong solar eruption shot so many electrically charged particles at Earth that the Canadian Province of Quebec lost power for nine hours.

The experts at SpaceWeather.com reported: “A CME passed close to Earth on July 1st. It did not directly strike our planet’s magnetic field.”

Scientists have predicted that the “near miss” may have implications for the globe’s magnetic field.

“It made itself known by ‘snowplowing’ dense plasma in our direction,” the SpaceWeather.com experts said.

The sun spat out a huge solar flare in April before a freak solar event caused a radio blackout on Earth.

The rogue sunspot, dubbed AR2993, sputtered twice from the surface producing an “overlapping of M1-class solar flares”.

A solar flare is a brief eruption of energy-dense radiation from the surface of a star – which can disrupt radio and magnetic signals on Earth.

Flares that fall into the M-Class category are moderately sized, and have the potential to affect the Earth’s polar regions and radio frequencies.

April’s eruption caused a minor radio blackout in South-East Asia and Australia, as experts explained to SpaceWeather : “The double-blast caused a minor albeit long-lasting radio blackout over southeast Asia and Australia.”

The flares can also expose astronauts to higher levels of radiation during their missions.