A ‘cannibalistic’ solar ejection heading straight for Earth could bring Northern Lights as far south as Illinois and trigger power voltage issues


The sun could send a storm to Earth over the next few days. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, our fiery star spewed out a series of bursts on Sunday that are heading toward our planet and could trigger a strong geomagnetic storm.

One of these bursts, called a coronal mass ejection, or CME, is expected to collide and consume another, creating what is called a cannibalistic CME event. According to The Weather Channel, these events can trigger strong geomagnetic storms – and in this case, it’s headed in our direction.

NASA image of the sun, showing a solar flare and coronal mass ejection
This 2004 image from NASA’s Solar and Heliospheric Observatory shows a solar flare, right, erupting from giant sunspot 649, sending a coronal mass ejection (CME) into space.

NASA SOHO/AFP via Getty Images

NOAA expects the ejections to hit on Thursday, but before they do, the agency said Earth will also be blasted on Wednesday with relatively fast solar winds, known as the High Recurrent Outflow. coronal hole velocity. Solar winds alone could trigger a small geomagnetic storm on Wednesday, but those conditions are should intensify at strong conditions, say G3, once the solar bursts have appeared.

NOAA said at least four of the CMEs have the potential to directly affect Earth.

Geomagnetic storms are classified on a ladder from G1 to G5, G5 being the most extreme. In such a case, there would be widespread voltage control issues and some power grids could experience “complete collapse or blackouts,” according to NOAA.

A G3 storm, like the one anticipated, could require some supply voltage systems to be corrected and could also trigger false alarms on power protection devices.

Such a storm could also create a nice side effect – visible aurora borealis outside their usual domain.

NOAA previously said the Northern Lights, also known as the Aurora Borealis, could be seen as far south as Illinois and Oregon if G3 hits.

When a CME hit Earth on Wednesday, it triggered a G2 geomagnetic storm and aurora sighting in Herzogswalde, Germany, according to spaceweather.com, which follows the latest data from NOAA. Herzogswalde is at 51º north latitude, roughly aligned with central Quebec and Ontario in Canada. And as noted by spaceweather.com, the lights were visible in this city through “clouds, haze and city lights”.

Thursday morning, NOAA said the impact area is mostly areas 50ºN and later, adding that the aurora can be seen at high latitudes like Canada and Alaska.

Also on Wednesday, NASA astronaut Bob Hines, pilot of the SpaceX Crew-4 mission launched in April, shared his own photos of the Northern Lights as seen from space. He pointed to recent solar activity to create splendor.

Where the lights will be visible and their intensity are best estimated by NOAA about 30 to 90 minutes in advance. Radar shows that around 2:45 a.m. ET on Thursday morning, the likelihood of auroras being seen from North Dakota, Minnesota and most of Canada increased dramatically.

A short term forecast for the lights can be found here.

Northern Lights in the Minnesota Sky
The Northern Lights could be seen on the northern horizon in the night sky over Wolf Lake in Minnesota’s Cloquet State Forest in the early morning hours of September 28, 2019.

Alex Kormann/Star Tribune via Getty Images

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