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Scientist Warns Solar Storms 'Could Easily' Get Bigger

Scientist Warns Solar Storms 'Could Easily' Get Bigger
(Getty Images)

By    |   Friday, 17 May 2024 10:38 PM EDT

Although this week’s solar storm was mostly known for a stunning light show, experts are warning that the next one could be even more powerful and only a year away.

Harvard astrophysicist Dr. Jonathan McDowell told the Daily Mail on Friday that the sun has not reached its “solar maximum,” the most active point of its 11-year cycle, in which great turbulence raises the sun’s energy output. Solar storms happen when radiation and plasma erupt from the sun and can overcharge earth’s atmosphere and magnetic field, causing major damage to modern technology if strong enough.

“We could easily get much bigger storms over the next year or two,” McDowell told the outlet. The maximum will arrive next summer in July 2025.

Last weekend severe solar storms hit the Earth and created an intense display of the northern lights in untraditional places such as northern California. 

While the mesmerizing light show was unique for observers, it caused havoc with some satellite connected equipment due to their reliance on global positioning systems. Kevin Kenney, who owns a farm in Nebraska, told 404 Media, “All the tractors are sitting at the ends of the field right now shut down because of the solar storm. No GPS.”

“It's definitely a scary time for satellite operators,” Dr. McDowell added. “This whole period of the next few years will be pulling satellites down much more than most of the previous decade.”

Elon Musk’s Starlink, which owns close to 60% of the estimated 7,500 satellites in orbit, warned of “degraded service” but that they were weathering the intense geomagnetic storm.

McDowell, who works with NASA’s Chandra X-ray telescope observatory, said the team “took some precautions” to ensure some instruments could survive the flare.

“Shutting certain bits down,” McDowell explained, to limit the threat of electrical damage to Chandra's sensors,"but not the whole spacecraft.”

McDowell said that the only way to predict a major solar storm is to follow the path of sunspots. “So, there's a certain level of forecasting possible,” he added. “We're working on improving that.” 

James Morley III

James Morley III is a writer with more than two decades of experience in entertainment, travel, technology, and science and nature. 

© 2024 Newsmax. All rights reserved.


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Although this week's solar storm was mostly known for a stunning light show, experts are warning that the next one could be even more powerful and only a year away. Harvard astrophysicist Dr. Jonathan McDowell said that the sun has not reached its ...
sun, solar, flare, earth, northern lights
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2024-38-17
Friday, 17 May 2024 10:38 PM
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