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Solar storm expected to hit Earth, could make northern lights visible in New York


Get ready, Earthlings, the sun is expected to wreak some havoc on our planet Monday — with an enormous solar flare that could disrupt power grids, affect spacecraft and make the northern lights visible in New York.


The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has issued a G2, or moderate, geomagnetic storm watch “due to the anticipated arrival of a CME (coronal mass ejection).


Among the possible effects of the sudden flash of increased brightness from our star 93 million miles away are power grid fluctuations, voltage alarms at higher latitudes, spacecraft orientation irregularities and increased drag on low-Earth orbiters, the NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center said.


But the most spectacular outcome of the massive CME could be the aurora borealis — or polar lights — that are normally visible in the high-latitude regions of Earth, but “may be visible as low as New York to Wisconsin to Washington state,” the advisory says.


The ethereal waves of color — also known as the northern lights — are created when energized particles from the sun strike the planet’s upper atmosphere at astronomical speeds of up to 45 million mph, according to Space.com.

New Yorkers will be able to see the northern lights as Earth’s magnetic fields shift back into position. David Tipling/Universal Images Group via Getty Images


Despite the alert, astronomers do not expect the flare to unleash the kind of disruption of the Carrington Event — the largest geomagnetic storm on record — in September 1859, the news outlet said.


That storm created strong auroras even close to the equator and inflicted serious damage to telegraph systems.


Solar activity has risen and fallen every 11 years and astronomers believe a new busy period is upon us — as a new family of sunspots triggered the biggest solar flare that has been observed since 2017, according to Sky News.


According to experts, the damage the solar flare could cause to the US alone would cost trillions of dollars. NASA/SDO


There are several classes of solar flares, with X-class considered the most intense. The one observed Saturday was an M-class event, the second-strongest.


Last month, University of California Irvine assistant professor Sangeetha Abdu Jyothi warned that an unmitigated solar “superstorm” could “cause large-scale Internet outages covering the entire globe and lasting several months.”


Most of the time, we’re protected from the sun’s radiation thanks to the ionosphere, otherwise known as Earth’s magnetic shield. But sometimes, solar flares penetrate our shield and wreak havoc on just about anything powered with electromagnetism.

Geomagnetic storm conditions are possible on Oct. 11, 2021.


It has been estimated that the potential damage caused by a disastrous CME in 2012, which only narrowly missed our planet, would have cost the US alone up to $2.6 trillion.


“Our [internet] infrastructure is not prepared for a large-scale solar event,” Jyothi told Wired recently, citing such consequences as widespread blackouts, mass traffic jams and a breakdown in the global supply chain, to name a few.

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