Radiation storm heading for Earth – what it’s and when it should strike

A radiation storm is due to hit Earth eminently but it’s not as horrific as it might sound.

It is expected to come just days after the massive geomagnetic storm that enabled Brits across the UK to see the Northern Lights.

The radiation storm is likely to hit this week, reports The Mirror, with experts placing the likelihood of it arriving today, Tuesday, May 14, at 60%.

READ MORE: Bloke spots hundreds of tiny ‘dancing orbs’ during Northern Lights that ‘could be UFOs’

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A radiation storm doesn’t pose a risk to humans, however it may impact satellites used for communications, Mirror reports.

People visit St Mary's lighthouse in Whitley Bay to see the aurora borealis
The storm is expected to come just days after a geomagnetic storm brought dazzling displays of the northern lights across the UK

A solar radiation storm (also known as a Solar Proton Event or SPE) occurs after major eruptions on the sun when protons get launched at incredibly high speeds and this time those protons are heading towards Earth.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said there was a lower chance on Wednesday too.

NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center also noted that the weekend’s geomagnetic storm – which saw the UK treated to the colourful light display in the sky – would persist until Monday.

A NASA graphic
Radiation storms aren’t harmful to humans

Space Weather Live reports: “Solar radiation storms are not dangerous for people on Earth. We are protected from these storms by Earth’s magnetic field and Earth’s atmosphere. One effect that we can experience on Earth during strong solar radiation storms is an increased risk of people on transpolar flights receiving a higher dose of radiation than normal.

“Transpolar flights sometimes have to be rerouted or cancelled because of these radiation storms. Another effect is that it can cause some communication problems over the polar areas. These protons are also a radiation threat to astronauts, in particular during their extra-vehicular activities (space walks).

“Satellites out in space are also vulnerable: these protons degrade solar panel efficiency, onboard electronic circuitry can malfunction and the protons will create noise in star-tracking systems.”

A NOAA graphic
But they can interfere with satellite communications

Some places in America are already reporting fallout from the radiation storm. Farmers in Minnesota, Nebraska, and other parts of the American Midwest experienced satellite disruptions to the “global positioning system” (GPS) equipment that they depend on for operating their equipment.

Farmer Kevin Kenney 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. We’re right in the middle of corn planting.”

The maker of John Deere farming equipment sent an unprecedented text message warning customers across the area, advising them to turn off their equipment during the storm.

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