“The Sun, our closest star, is quite far away from us,” Brentjes explains. “We always think space is empty, but it’s not nearly as empty as we think. There’s a constant wind of particles coming from the Sun to Earth. When we talk about a solar storm, there’s something going on with those winds; They are too fast or too dense. “Then it affects the Earth’s magnetic field, for example.”
So a solar storm like the one that will pass over Earth tonight consists of a stream of charged particles. These particles are directed to the North or South Pole. “Maybe that’s why we see the northern lights,” Brentjes says. “But,” he continues, “there are no doomsday scenarios at all. Today we are talking about a G1 or G2 storm, in a category of 5. Then there are small impacts.”
According to him, such “storms” now occur almost every week. “The sun is very active now: sometimes the sun is quiet for a few years and sometimes it’s busy. It’s a busy period now.” But how do we know that such a “storm” is coming? “Of course we don’t have weather stations between the sun and the Earth,” Brentjes says with a laugh. “We see a hole in the Sun’s atmosphere, from which a very fast stream of particles is coming to Earth. We saw that a few days ago and those particles are expected to arrive today. The intensity of the type of storm we have today, it’s not that bad.”
However, a stronger category storm “could occur at any time during solar peak.” “Almost every solar maximum experiences such a storm,” Brentjes says. The positive side is the failure of power grids and out-of-orbit satellites. “The bottom of the G5 category happens a few times every once in a while. There are some big energy or space companies that have to prepare for this. The extreme category with the blackouts; it happens once every 50 to 200 years. It could definitely happen but not tonight,” he said. He concludes with a wink.
“Thinker. Coffeeaholic. Award-winning gamer. Web trailblazer. Pop culture scholar. Beer guru. Food specialist.”