This Halloween might not be quite as spooky as usual. A strong solar flare erupted on Nov. 5, according to scientists who monitor space weather.
A coronal mass ejection (CME) with a high eruption rate—similar to a dust volcano— occurred on Nov. 5, according to the University of Colorado. The scientists have warned of a possible geomagnetic storm in the next few days. NASA scientists noted the Earth is bound to face a slight weakening of the power grid between Dec. 8-10, and there is a distinct possibility that the storm could bring auroras to places such as Northern and Southern Alaska.
“After the sun aligns with the Earth’s orbit, we will feel a huge disturbance in the upper atmosphere,” said Thomas Berger, a solar physicist at NASA. “CMEs like this one can act like weather fronts and can induce a disturbance that can cause stuff like voltage spikes and lines to appear and disappear. They can also cause lights to flicker.”
NASA’s advanced GPS watches over northern latitudes are currently predicting a system called a Coronal Mass Ejection, or CME, will come closest to Earth between Nov. 12-15. The CME could bring a strange optical phenomenon called northern lights to the northern United States, experts said.
Scientists aren’t sure exactly what caused the flare on Nov. 5 but another large flare, which occurred on Nov. 10, comes just days after scientists recorded an extremely strong solar eruption on Nov. 7. That event was first recorded by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) observatory. On Nov. 7, a strong plasma cloud, or a coronal mass ejection, from the sun erupted in a massive power burst, according to NASA. The fusion of particles into energized plasma was recorded in the X-flare, which can cause auroras to flicker at high latitudes.
“It can also make the magnetic field connected to the surface of the sun a little bit stronger, which allows for more energy to be delivered into the Earth’s magnetosphere,” said Sean Colgan, a solar physicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.
As the Earth has moved into the elliptical plane of its orbit, so has the sun.
The combination of the strong CME and two others earlier this month is contributing to a stronger magnetic field that could cause disruptions to power grids.
“This system might mean that they might feel a little bit of the Earth’s magnetic field weakening somewhat, which could be a sign of a low-frequency effect,” Colgan said. “It’s not necessarily because of a disruption in the space storm environment, which is relatively stable.”
Here are some tips to stay safe during an electrical storm: