'Great' super solar storms strong enough to cause blackouts flare up every 25 years

'Great' super solar storms strong enough to cause blackouts flare up every 25 years
Solar storms can cause blackouts, knock out satellites and affect navigationNASA

  • A new study by researchers at the University of Warwick ‘great’ super solar storms occur every 25 years on average.
  • These storms cause blackouts, knock out satellites and can disrupt aviation.
  • However, there is no mechanism in place to predict exactly when the next solar storm will hit Earth.
Even though the Sun is 149.6 million kilometres from Earth, its storms can knock out satellites and plunge cities into blackouts. ‘Great’ super solar storms — that unleash solar particles and waves of solar radiation into space — are likely to happen every 25 years according to a new study published in Geophysical Research Letters.

According to the study, ‘great’ superstorms don’t last more than a few days. But their effect on modern technology lasts longer. It’s especially disastrous for aviation since it can disrupt GPS signals thwarting navigation and block radio communication.

“These super-storms are rare events but estimating their chance of occurrence is an important part of planning the level of mitigation needed to protect critical national infrastructure,” said Sandra Chapman, lead author of the study.

Solar storms “can happen any time”
These solar flares haven’t been easy to predict although the Sun follows an 11-year cycle. Studies so far, have only gone back as far as five cycles to study the Sun.

However, the analysis led by the University of Warwick studied the past fourteen cycles for the first time and found that ‘severe’ magnetic storms have occurred 42 times. and ‘Great’ super storms have occurred only six times in the last 150 years.

“Our research shows that a superstorm can happen more often than we thought. Don’t be misled by the stats, it can happen any time, we simply don’t know when and right now we can’t predict when,” said Richard Home, the head of space weather at the British Antarctic Survey.

For instance, the solar storm of 1989 caused a major power blackout in Quebec. In 2012, a coronal mass ejection (CMA) from the Sun only narrowly missed the planet. Had it hit Earth, it would have been another superstorm. In order to better predict these storms, other projects are also underway.

In December 2019, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) shared the Parker Solar Probe’s first findings. They indicated that the Sun has more outbursts than expected. Not all of them get detected by telescopes on Earth because the resulting particles are so small that they’re near invisible as they spread out into space.

See also:
8 pictures you must see to understand what ISRO's Aditya L1 is looking for

Never seen before picture shows every cell of the Sun is twice the size of Rajasthan

Solar eclipses in 2020 — twice a year that the Moon will try to block out the Sun