Don’t panic! A massive solar storm is NOT heading toward Earth. Posts alleging that a ‘massive’ solar storm was expected to head our way this week, circulated widely online. A “high-speed stream of solar wind is expected to hit Earth’s magnetic field as weather forecasters issue warnings,” wrote one dubious website.
Scientists, however, roundly debunked the claim. Here are the details:
CLAIM: A solar storm is heading toward Earth and could impact cell phone signals and cause blackouts.
THE FACTS: False claims are swirling about a possible solar storm that could hit this week, but experts are not seeing a storm in sight.
Posts online began claiming Tuesday that the storm would cause massive disruption on Earth that would extend into the week.
Some posts sharing the false claim referred to the supposed event as “solar storm 2021” and shared pictures of a fiery sun. But Bill Murtagh, program coordinator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Weather Prediction Center, told The Associated Press that there is no solar storm predicted for this week.
A solar flare, which is a kind of solar storm, did take place on July 3. Solar flares occur when magnetic fields build up on the sun in the form of sunspots.
When the magnetic fields get twisted and build up energy, they may violently release that energy in a flash of light, said Alex Young, solar physicist at NASA. The July 3 event was the first big flare of this solar cycle and the brightest in four years.
“We typically get 150 of them over an 11 year cycle,” Murtaugh said about solar flares. “Fortunately, we are 93 million miles away from the sun so we have Earth’s magnetic field and atmosphere which protects us from the harmful emissions from these eruptions.”
The July 3 solar flare did interfere with some high frequency communication, but Young said the impact was less than it could have been. “This was really very slow and it was not fully directed at Earth,” Young said. “We don’t have any expectation of seeing any impact on Earth.”
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