Tech UPTechnologyGiant flares from the Sun are coming

Giant flares from the Sun are coming

Over the past few weeks, our star has experienced a series of fairly large giant eruptions, sending plasma hurtling through space.

 

a very busy season

One of the most outstanding events of these coronal mass ejections (CME, in English) was the one that happened on February 15 : a powerful solar flare erupted from the other side of the Sun that, according to experts, could be classified as a solar flare of class X, the most powerful of all (and that can go up to X20, which represents an extreme solar flare event). Since it wasn’t facing Earth, we didn’t have any direct consequences.

According to ESA, we have this information because the Solar Orbiter spacecraft is approaching the Earth-Sun line. In its report, ESA explained that “the prominence observed by Solar Orbiter is the largest event of its kind ever captured in a single field of view along with the solar disk, opening new possibilities to see how events like these connect with the solar disk for the first time. If it were to hit Earth, it would have produced a strong geomagnetic storm.

In the same way, according to data from SpaceWeatherLive , which tracks its activity each day, it highlights that the Sun has been very active every day since the beginning of February, and some days even presenting multiple bursts. Flames are coming in non-stop.

This latest solar flare on February 15 did not cause any damage to Earth , but according to scientists at the European Space Agency, it serves as an “important reminder of the unpredictable nature of the Sun and the importance of understanding and monitoring its behavior.”

 

Soon we will reach solar maximum

Recall that the Sun is expected to reach its “solar maximum” (the most dynamic stage during its activity cycle) in 2024, at which time it will produce more electrons and protons than usual, ending with solar flares and coronal mass ejections that they would generate clouds of plasma that would affect the Earth in the form of a magnetic storm. It is a cycle that occurs every 11 years and that, in this case, will represent Solar Cycle 25. This cycle is based on the Sun’s magnetic field; thus, every 11 years, its north and south magnetic poles switch places (during solar minimum, the Sun’s magnetic field is much weaker).

The NOAA/NASA Solar Cycle 25 Prediction Panel indicated that Solar Cycle 25 would peak in July 2025; however, after adjusting with current data, this maximum was estimated for October 2024.

During the time of “solar maximum”, extreme solar storms can occur, starting with a solar explosion or flare in the magnetic canopy of a sunspot. When this happens, extreme X-rays and ultraviolet radiation reach Earth at the speed of light, ionizing the upper layers of the atmosphere and causing GPS navigation errors and radio blackouts in their wake . The energetic particles that occur right after do not provide us with any promising scenario, since they can electrify satellites and damage the electronic components of the devices.

As if this were not enough, the coronal mass ejection, which comes with clouds of a billion tons of magnetized plasma, could lead to something that many fear: widespread blackouts around the world, rendering completely useless any device that is plugged into it. the current. And we are not prepared for an “Internet apocalypse”, in a permanently connected world.

Without going any further, a few weeks ago a mild geomagnetic storm shot down 40 Starlink satellites from Elon Musk’s company SpaceX, recently launched from low Earth orbit. This small geomagnetic storm appeared after an M-class flare that took place on January 29.

All of these events are part of our Sun’s normal activity, so it’s crucial that astronomers keep a close eye on the Sun’s activity to make sure there’s enough warning before we know any potential geomagnetic storms are coming. For this, we also have the Solar Orbiter space probe (launched in February 2020), since its objective is to study the Sun as never before.

 

A little history

On March 8, 1582, a huge solar storm hit the Earth, flooding the sky with a spectacular and brilliant red light, comparable to those that took place in 1909 and 1989. Auroras could even be observed in places where no one had ever seen one: Florida, Egypt, or even southern Japan. These events suggest that it is “a once-in-a-century occurrence,” so we could witness one of them during the 21st century, experts say.

 

Reference: NOAA/Observatory of Solar Dynamics

NASA: blogs.nasa.gov/solarcycle25/2022/01/20/mid-level-flare-erupts-from-sun/

NASA – Solar Storm and Space Weather

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