‘Cannibal’ coronal mass ejection will hit Earth at roughly 2 million mph, scientists predict
After the discovery of 17 solar explosions bursting from a single sunspot, two of which are headed directly for Earth, the brilliant northern lights might light up the skies as far south as the northern United States.
The two Earth-directed eruptions have fused into a “cannibal coronal mass ejection” and are barreling at us at 1,881,263 mph (3,027,599 km/h).
According to the Space Weather Prediction Center of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a major G3 geomagnetic storm will form when it collides with the Earth’s magnetic field from March 30 through April 1.
(SWPC). G3 storms are categorized as powerful geomagnetic storms, meaning that the impending solar blast might bring the aurora as south as Pennsylvania, Iowa, and Oregon.
Since Monday, a sunspot identified as AR2975 has been erupting and ejecting electrically charged flares into the Sun’s plasma soup (March 28). Sunspots are places on the sun’s surface where enormous magnetic fields, caused by the movement of electrical charges, twist into kinks before unexpectedly snapping.
The ensuing release of energy propels bursts of radiation called solar flares, or explosive jets of solar material called coronal mass ejections (CMEs) (CMEs).
Solar eruptions that move quickly enough to catch up to previous ones in the same region of space produce cannibal coronal mass ejections (CMEs), which sweep up charged particles and combine them into a massive wavefront that causes a violent geomagnetic storm.
The “frenzy” of solar flares meant that “at least two full-halo [Earth hitting] CMEs emerged from the pandemonium,” SpaceWeather.com wrote of the incident. The second CME is predicted to overtake and “cannibalize” the first before impacting Earth’s magnetic field at roughly 11 p.m. ET time on March 30.
According to the SWPC, CMEs typically take 15 to 18 hours to reach Earth. When they do, the Earth’s magnetic field gets compressed somewhat by the waves of highly energetic particles, which ripple down magnetic field lines and agitate molecules in the atmosphere, releasing energy in the form of light to generate beautiful auroras in the night sky.
Even while the storm’s energy is predicted to be absorbed harmlessly by Earth’s magnetic field, huge solar storms can still cause damage. According to SWPC, G3 storms may create “intermittent satellite navigation and low-frequency radio navigation issues.
As Live Science previously reported, a severe storm in February knocked 40 Starlink satellites down to Earth, and scientists have warned that an even larger storm might disable the internet worldwide.
Scientists believe the 1859 Carrington Event was the most powerful solar storm ever recorded in modern times, with an energy output equivalent to that of 10 billion 1-megaton atomic bombs.
Solar particles slammed into Earth and destroyed telegraph systems around the world, causing auroras as bright as the full moon to show as far south as the Caribbean after impacting Earth’s atmosphere.
If a similar event happened today, it would bring trillions of dollars in damage and widespread blackouts, much like the solar storm which triggered the 1989 Quebec blackout, according to scientists.