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'Dead sunspot' has launched a fiery ball of plasma toward Earth

'Dead sunspot' has launched a fiery ball of plasma toward Earth

A dead sunspot launched a fiery ball of plasma toward Earth, and it will work to cause more intense northern lights when they collide with the planet tomorrow.

The explosive event occurred on Monday, coming from a sunspot previously thought to be dead and no longer active, known as AR2987.

Space weather forecasters say it released an energetic burst of radiation, creating a coronal mass ejection (CME) expected to hit Earth, colliding charged particles with the planet’s magnetic field, on April 14.

When it hits Earth, it will create a more intense Northern Lights, which will be visible further south than usual, reaching northern Michigan and Maine in the US, or Scotland and parts of northern England in the UK.

This level of solar flares could lead to a G2-class solar storm, resulting in some minor fluctuations in the power grid, as well as potentially limited disruption to GPS signals.

A dead sunspot launched a fiery plasma ball toward Earth, and it will act to cause more intense northern lights when they collide with the planet tomorrow

A dead sunspot launched a fiery plasma ball toward Earth, and it will act to cause more intense northern lights when they collide with the planet tomorrow

The explosive event occurred on Monday, coming from a sunspot previously thought to be dead and no longer active, known as AR2987

The explosive event occurred on Monday, coming from a sunspot previously thought to be dead and no longer active, known as AR2987

A sunspot is a dark area on the surface of our host star, caused by intense magnetic flux rising from within and can last for hours to months.

Over time, the sun’s convection breaks up the spots, leaving bits of still solar surface that have been magnetically disrupted.

Sometimes the sunspots can start over, with more magnetism appearing in the same area days or weeks later, especially if there is an unstable area below the surface that is good at generating magnetic fields.

This rebooted sunspot released a class C solar flare Monday morning, caused by the plasma and magnetic fields above the sunspot collapsing, colliding with dense material below — sending them into space.

When it hits Earth, it will create a more intense Northern Lights, which will be visible further south than usual, reaching northern Michigan and Maine in the US or Scotland and parts of northern England in the UK

When it hits Earth, it will create a more intense Northern Lights, which will be visible further south than usual, reaching northern Michigan and Maine in the US or Scotland and parts of northern England in the UK

WHAT ARE AURORAS AND WHAT DRAW UP THE BEAUTIFUL NATURAL DISPLAYS?

The Northern and Southern Lights are natural light spectacles that are triggered in our atmosphere and are also known as the ‘auroras’.

There are two types of Aurora: Aurora Borealis, which means ‘dawn of the north’, and Aurora Australis, ‘dawn of the south’.

The displays light up when electrically charged particles from the sun enter the Earth’s atmosphere.

Usually, the particles, also called solar storm, are deflected by the Earth’s magnetic field.

But during stronger storms, they enter the atmosphere and collide with gas particles, including hydrogen and helium.

These collisions radiate light. Auroral displays appear in many colors, although pale green and pink are common.

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This is a common type of flare that rarely causes a coronal mass ejection — a massive explosion of plasma sent into space at millions of miles per hour — and when they do, they tend to be slower and fainter than other flare categories. .

When these CMEs, including the one sent to Earth on Monday, come into contact with our planet, they collide with its magnetic field.

Charged particles in the plasma travel through the field starting at the north and south poles, then interact with the gases in the atmosphere, releasing photons.

This is what produces aurora, also known as the northern and southern lights, and during calm periods normal solar wind causes it in polar regions.

When there is a CME, as happened this week, the aurora is more intense around the poles and may be visible further south or north depending on the hemisphere.

This is also known as a solar or geomagnetic storm, and they are ranked from G1, the weakest, to G5, the most intense with aurora visible much further south.

Monday’s CME is likely to result in nothing more than a G1 or G2 storm, which could affect satellite operations and fluctuate the power grid – although it’s unlikely.

Although our sun gives us life, it also often ‘sneezes’, throwing billions of tons of hot plasma into colossal globs of matter with magnetic fields — in other words, CMEs.

It emits gigantic bursts, bursts of powerful electromagnetic radiation – X-rays, gamma rays and radio bursts – accompanied by streams of highly energetic particles.

CMEs usually take about 15 to 18 hours to reach Earth.

This level of solar flares could lead to a G2 class solar storm, resulting in some minor fluctuations in the power grid, as well as potentially limited disruption to GPS signals.

This level of solar flares could lead to a G2 class solar storm, resulting in some minor fluctuations in the power grid, as well as potentially limited disruption to GPS signals.

The Northern Lights have fascinated people on Earth for centuries, but the science behind them is not always understood.

Our planet has an invisible force field, the magnetosphere, that protects us from dangerously charged particles from the sun.

The magnetosphere is the area around the Earth that is controlled by the planet’s magnetic field.

Science expert Marty Jopson said: ‘While it protects us, it also creates one of the most impressive phenomena on Earth: the Northern Lights.

“When the deadly solar winds meet Earth’s magnetosphere, some charged particles get trapped and are propelled by Earth’s magnetic field lines, straight to the poles.

“And when they reach Earth, they hit atoms and molecules in our atmosphere, releasing energy in the form of light.”

SUN STORMS ARE A CLEAR HAZARD TO ASTRONAUTS AND CAN DAMAGE THE SATELLITES

solar stormsor solar activity, can be divided into: four main components: that can have consequences on Earth:

  • solar flares: A large explosion in the sun’s atmosphere. These flares are made of photons that travel out directly from the flare location. Solar flares only strike the Earth when they occur on the side of the Sun that faces Earth.
  • Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs): Large clouds of plasma and magnetic field erupting from the sun. These clouds can erupt in any direction and then continue in that direction, plowing by solar wind. These clouds only cause an impact on the earth if they are aimed at the earth.
  • Fast solar wind currents: These come from coronal holes on the sun, which form all over the sun and usually only when they are closer to the solar equator do the winds hit the earth.
  • Solar Energy Particles: High-energy charged particles believed to be released primarily by shocks formed at the front of coronal mass ejections and solar flares. When a CME cloud plows through solar wind, solar energetic particles can be produced, and because they are charged, they follow the magnetic field lines between the sun and Earth. Only charged particles that follow magnetic field lines that cross the Earth will have an impact.

While these may seem dangerous, astronauts are not directly at risk from these phenomena due to the relatively low orbit of manned missions.

However, they should be concerned about cumulative exposure during spacewalks.

This photo shows the Sun's coronal holes in an X-ray.  The outer solar atmosphere, the corona, is structured by strong magnetic fields, which, when closed, can cause the atmosphere to suddenly and forcibly release gas bubbles and magnetic fields called coronal mass ejections.

This photo shows the Sun’s coronal holes in an X-ray. The outer solar atmosphere, the corona, is structured by strong magnetic fields, which, when closed, can cause the atmosphere to suddenly and forcibly release bubbles or tongues of gas and magnetic fields called coronal mass ejections.

The damage caused by solar storms

Solar flares can damage satellites and have enormous financial costs.

The charged particles can also threaten airlines by disrupting the Earth’s magnetic field.

Very large flares can even create currents within power grids and cut off the energy supply.

When coronal mass ejections strike Earth, they cause geomagnetic storms and amplified aurora.

They can disrupt radio waves and GPS coordinates and overload electrical systems.

A large influx of energy can flow into high voltage grids and permanently damage transformers.

This could shut down businesses and homes around the world.

Source: NASA – Solar Storm and Space Weather

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