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China issues alert for geomagnetic storm

This photo taken with a mobile phone on May 11, 2024 shows the northern lights near Nanshan scenic spot in Urumqi, capital of Northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region. [Photo/Xinhua]

BEIJING – China’s National Center for Space Weather issued a red alert on Saturday morning after detecting a strong geomagnetic storm that is expected to continue throughout the weekend, which will impact communications and navigation in most areas of the country.

The geomagnetic storm, which began at 11:00 pm Beijing Time on Friday, reached its peak with a Kp index of 9, the strongest level, the center said, noting that the storm process was expected to continue in the next 24 hours.

The center warned that the ionosphere in most areas of China will be disturbed by the geomagnetic storm, affecting short-wave communication and navigation, and the increased upper atmosphere density will cause orbital decay for low-orbit satellites.

According to space weather experts, a geomagnetic storm is a phenomenon where the Earth’s magnetic field is violently disturbed by high-speed coronal ejection material carrying the sun’s magnetic field. The storms can disrupt satellite signals and ground communications, impacting deep space exploration, but generally do not affect human health.

When geomagnetic storms occur, they usually bring with them the phenomenon of auroras. High-energy particles descend from space and collide with the atmosphere, lighting up the sky in different colors.

Due to the current geomagnetic storm, stunning auroras were observed on Friday night and Saturday morning across much of the northern half of China, including Heilongjiang, Inner Mongolia and Xinjiang. Aurora enthusiasts in these regions captured the enchanting dance of light and shadow from the universe with their cameras.

Xiu Lipeng, a member of the Chinese Astronomical Society and an expert in popularizing the science of astronomy, explained that the occurrence of auroras is closely linked to solar activity. The higher the intensity of solar activity, the greater the likelihood of witnessing this marvelous natural phenomena.

The current solar cycle is likely to peak between 2024 and 2025. During this period, solar activity will be very frequent and intense, and the probability of auroral eruptions will be much higher than in normal years, which means that people in northern regions will have more opportunities to see beautiful auroras, Xiu told Xinhua.