Space weather forecasters were surprised to witness the most powerful solar storm hitting the Earth on March 24 after nearly six years, and it triggered auroras in many regions, including the USA. It was the geomagnetic storm that peaked at a severe G4 on the 5-grade scale used by NOAA to assess space weather events. Owing to the storm’s unexpected ferocity, auroras were visible as far south as New Mexico in the US. A launch had to be delayed by 90 minutes by Rocket Lab due to the solar storm.
Coronal mass ejections (CME) cause geomagnetic storms. CMEs are large expulsions of plasma & magnetic fields from the sun’s atmosphere. A “stealth” CME, difficult to detect, triggered this particular storm. It was a coronal hole, wider than 20 Earths, that caused the storm, as it was spewing out solar winds at speeds over 1.3 million mph (2.1 million km/h). “A geomagnetic storm watch “had been announced by NOAA originally on March 22, expecting moderate G2 storm conditions on March 24.
But the storm that hit the Earth on March 24 was upgraded to a severe G4 storm at 00:41 EDT (04:41GMT). Tamitha Slovenia, a US space weather forecaster, explained that “stealth” CMEs are difficult to observe leaving the sun’s surface without specialized training. It was explained by Slovak that these CMEs can be “camouflaged” by other, more dense structures emanating from the sun. NOAA ranks the geomagnetic storms on a scale from G1 to G5, with G5 being the most extreme.
The density of gasses is increased. Due to the strong geomagnetic storms posing a problem for space flights, as the Earth’s upper atmosphere is affected. Telegraphic services all over the world were disrupted in September 1859 due to the Carrington Event, which was a colossal solar storm.
Auroras, triggered by the Carrington Event, were so bright & powerful as they were visible as far south as the Bahamas. The solar storm on March 24 was not as severe as the Carrington Event. Power supplies are disrupted, & minor fluctuations are caused by geomagnetic storms. The need for continued research & monitoring of space weather events is underscored by this storm.