A massive coronal hole straddling the Sun’s equator is sending out a highly charged solar wind that will hit the Earth’s magnetic field square on.
Solar winds are a continuous stream of ions, charged particles. The coronal hole allows the particles to escape instead of looping back down to the Suns surface. The winds from coronal holes take a few days to reach Earth, and due to the Sun’s rotation they emanate out in a ‘pinwheel’ fashion as they pass through the solar system.
It’s the buffering of the Earth’s magnetic field that gives rise to auroras, usually in the high northern latitudes, but strong winds can cause huge auroras that can be seen much farther south.
The larger the amount of ionized particles that escape from the hole, the more chance there is of disruption to spacecraft communications and to electronic communications on Earth. Solar winds are far less likely than coronal mass ejections to affect the power grid. With speeds of up to 1-2 million miles per hour (source) the magnetosphere is buffeted and deformed by the stream of particles that hit it. This deformation, the magnetic flux and that flux is what can knock out satellite and electronic communications on Earth.
Chris Carrington is a writer, researcher and lecturer with a background in science, technology and environmental studies. Chris is an editor for The Daily Sheeple, where this article first appeared. Wake the flock up!