A massive bout of solar wind released from the Sun has ripped a hole in Earth’s magnetic field. The hole was caused by a mysterious shock wave in the solar wind, scientists say, and it was expected to lead to the formation of geomagnetic storms, according to spaceweather.com.
While it seems we might have missed the brunt of the storms, as they were expected to hit yesterday, having a hole in the magnetic field that protects our planet is not great news. That’s because any solar winds or other solar energy getting through and interacting with our atmosphere, possibly causing blackouts of GPS and more.
The shockwave that caused the hole in the Earth’s magnetic field is believed to have come from a sunspot known as AR3165, which recently erupted in eight solar flares on December 14. Those flurries caused a massive blackout of radio signals over the Atlantic Ocean, which we could see again depending on how long the magnetic field takes to repair itself.
What is reassuring is that this hole isn’t something that is expected to last forever. These events happen regularly when solar wind and flares hit our planet’s magnetic field, so it’s not unusual for holes in our magnetic field to appear. They often heal themselves within a few hours. However, if any solar energy gets through, it can wreak havoc on our radio signals.
While this most recent hole in Earth’s magnetic field might not be that dangerous, there are solar flares and coronal mass ejections that can cause much bigger problems. Some, if strong enough, can knock out GPS, radio, and other important signals over major cities and even countries. And, with the Sun’s cycle still ramping up, it’s essential to keep an eye on things.
Solar flares can also make for a beautiful but terrifying spectacle, as seen in a NASA video capturing a solar flare’s eruption. While this most recent flare wasn’t as powerful as some of the X-1 flares we’ve seen, it was still strong enough to rip a hole in the Earth’s magnetic field. Thankfully any possible geomagnetic storms that might have hit weren’t worse than they were.