Massive solar storm set to hit Earth tomorrow could bring Northern Lights to Leeds

A huge solar storm is set to slam into Earth tomorrow - and it could bring power cuts and stunning displays of the the Northern Lights to the north of England.

Wednesday, 14th March 2018, 12:09 pm
Updated Wednesday, 14th March 2018, 12:10 pm

The storm could also knockout satellites and was created last week by an enormous explosion in the sun's atmosphere known as a solar flare.

-> White Easter: Why the Beast from the East could bring the snow back this weekendCharged particles from that flare are now on their way to our planet - and are predicted to hit on Wednesday.

The arrival of the solar storm coincides with the formation of 'equinox cracks' in Earth's magnetic field, which form around the equinoxes on March 20 and September 23 every year.

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Northern Lights

These cracks weaken our planet's natural protection against charged particles, potentially leaving aeroplanes and GPS systems exposed to the storm.

The cracks also mean those looking up to the skies are more likely to catch glimpses of the Northern Lights this week.

This may include parts of Scotland and northern England, as well as parts of the north of America.

Charged, magnetic particles from the solar storm can interfere with machinery in Earth's orbit as well as at the planet's surface, such as GPS systems and radio signals.

Northern Lights

They can also threaten airlines by disturbing Earth's magnetic field. Very large flares can even create currents within electricity grids and knock out energy supplies.

A spokesman for NASA said: "Solar flares and CMEs are not a danger to humans on Earth's surface, as the planet's magnetic field (magnetosphere) and atmosphere deflect and absorb the solar energy and particles.

"The sun storms can pose some risks to astronauts, and they can upset the electronics and transmissions on science, military, and communications satellites.

"Closer to Earth's surface, solar activity can cause disruptions of radio signals (particularly HF), provide a small dose of radiation to passengers on high-latitude flights, and provoke auroras (northern and southern lights).

"The storm is impressive by recent standards, but nowhere near the maximum intensities often generated at the height of the solar cycle.

“I would expect that we will see more storms like this one or even bigger as we get closer to solar maximum,” said Michael Hesse, chief of heliophysics at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.