Powerful solar storm approaches Earth with potential blackouts and spectacular auroras

As Sunspot AR3664 gears up to face Earth once more, the risk of powerful solar flares threatens blackouts, while also promising the chance to witness dazzling Southern lights.

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For a moment in time, it seemed like the entire world managed to capture what seemed like a once-in-a-lifetime phenomenon. Stunning auroras were seen throughout the world, in places you would never expect to see them. I for one, a few years ago, took a plane flight to the South Pole, for my chance to see the Southern Lights, so when they showed up on my doorstep in Adelaide, I was unbelievably delighted. So were my kids, who had missed the (very expensive) bucket list flight.

Well, if you were one of the people who missed the aurora sightings, or if you just got a taste for the spectacular light show in the night sky and want more, there’s new hope of more auroras in the near future.

A strong solar storm is predicted to hit Earth soon, sparked by new activity from sunspot AR3664. This sunspot recently released an intense X2.8 class solar flare, one of the strongest types of solar flares. Such powerful solar activity is rare and significant.

Earlier this month, AR3664 caught attention by producing a G5-rated geomagnetic storm, the highest level on the geomagnetic storm scale. This was one of the strongest magnetic storms Earth has seen in over 20 years, and resulted in the epic aurora shows we all witness. Now, as AR3664 turns back towards Earth, there’s a chance we could experience another major solar event.

Although the recent solar flare caused a coronal mass ejection (CME) that didn’t head towards Earth, there’s still a risk to satellites and communications if future eruptions do. This will be particularly relevant because on June 6, the sunspot will be directly facing Earth during a new moon, increasing the chances of geomagnetic disturbances.

Ryan French, a solar physicist from the National Solar Observatory in Boulder, Colorado, shared on social media platform X that AR3664’s position makes it more likely we could see the aurora borealis. While not guaranteed, conditions suggest a higher chance of witnessing the northern lights around June 6, similar to what happened a few weeks ago.

These solar disturbances can have two main effects: they can disrupt satellite and communication systems on Earth, potentially causing blackouts, and they can create stunning displays of the northern lights. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) mentioned that the solar particles were released at a distance from Earth, so their effects might be delayed, giving us more time to potentially see the aurora.

Astrophotographer Andrew McCarthy has been sharing updates and photos of these solar events. His recent posts alert followers to AR3664’s ongoing activity and the possible auroras it might produce.

As AR3664 continues its activity, both experts and enthusiasts are closely watching. While there’s a significant potential for disruption and natural spectacle, we’ll know more about AR3664’s impact as it faces Earth in the coming week. People in regions where the aurora can be seen are both hopeful and cautious about what’s to come.

For all the latest aurora alerts, one option is to get the Glendale App:

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