Sunspots and solar activity captured by astronomer

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Experts monitoring surface activity of the Sun have noticed a sunspot that released a solar flare, or coronal mass ejection (CME). While this flare was released several days ago, it is close to reaching Earth and could hit tomorrow.

When it does, on June 8, it could spark a G1 class geomagnetic storm.

A solar storm of this power can lead to “weak power grid fluctuations” and can have a “minor impact on satellite operations”.

Dr Tony Phillips, lead astronomer for Space Weather, wrote on the blog on June 7: “Today, geomagnetic activity is low.

“Tomorrow could be stormy. A high-speed solar wind stream is expected to buffet Earth’s magnetic field on June 8, bringing a slight chance of G1-class geomagnetic storms.”

CMEs come to fruition from the presence of ‘sunspots’ on the surface of our host star.

They are typically cooler than the rest of the surface of the Sun as sunspots are areas of strong magnetic fields.

The magnetism is so strong that it actually keeps some of the heat from escaping.

However, as the magnetic field builds, it increases pressure in the sunspot which can erupt as a solar flare, or a CME.

While most solar flares are weak, Dominic Cummings, the ex-advisor to Boris Johnson, said the preparation from the Government for solar flares is woeful.

Although solar flares were put on the National Risk Assessment in 2011, there is still little being done to prepare, Mr Cummings told the Science and Technology, and Health and Social Care Committees, in a hearing in May.

He said: “There is not a culture of talking to outside experts. I’ll give you a recent example, I was talking to some people who said to me ‘did you ever go and read the plan on solar flares?’

“I said no, and they said if you get some expert advice on that you’ll see the current government plan on that is just completely hopeless.

“If that happens we’re all going to be in a worse situation than Covid.

“There ought to be an absolutely thorough, total review of all risk register programmes.”

Previous studies have revealed that the Sun releases an extreme solar flare every 25 years on average, with the last Earth-hitting one coming in 1989.

This storm saw power outages in Quebec, Canada, as conducting rocks on Earth can carry the excess energy from the magnetic shield and plough it into the national grid.

On top of that, an intense solar storm can down satellite systems, as the bombardment of solar particles can expand Earth’s magnetosphere, making it harder for satellite signals to penetrate.

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