Published: 03rd May 2021
What the FAQ: What are solar storms and how are they formed?
In today's What the FAQ, here's all you need to know about solar storms, its causes and impact
A solar storm travelling at 1.8 million km per hour is expected to hit Earth this weekend. Experts say that the storm may impact our satellite technology and cause minor power grid fluctuations. We take a look at what solar storms are and what causes them.
What are solar storms?
A solar storm is an atmospheric effect felt on Earth from certain events that occur on the Sun. It is a disturbance on the Sun, which can spread outward across the heliosphere, affecting the entire Solar System, including Earth.
What are the types of solar storms?
The four main types of solar storms are solar flares, which are sudden explosions caused by crossing of magnetic lines near sunspots; coronal cloud, a massive burst of solar wind; geometric storm, the Sun's outburst with Earth's magnetic field and solar particle event, a proton or energy particle storm.
What causes a solar storm?
Solar storms occur when the Sun emits huge bursts of energy in the form of solar flares and coronal mass ejections. These phenomena send a stream of electrical charges and magnetic fields toward the Earth at a speed of about three million miles per hour.
What is its impact?
When a solar storm strikes the Earth, it often produces a dazzling 'northern lights' display in parts of the atmosphere that can be seen in areas close to the Arctic Circle. Solar storms can also disrupt satellites and various forms of electronic communications.
What is the frequency of solar storms?
The frequency of occurrence of solar flares varies, from several per day when the Sun is particularly 'active' to less than one every week when the Sun is 'dormant', following the 11-year cycle. Large flares are less frequent than smaller ones.