These phenomena do not represent a risk for the Earth, but they have the merit of providing us with important scientific data and magnificent images.
Solar weather has been fairly calm lately, and is expected to remain so throughout the year; but a remarkable series of events has nevertheless come to spice up the daily life of astronomers; in recent days, NASA has spotted no less than 17 flares from the same sunspot.
These sunspots are dark areas on the surface of the Sun that are created by variations in the magnetic field. They are the scene of violent eruptions, often associated with a phenomenon called “coronal mass ejection”, or CME. Very briefly, it is a bubble of charged particles (or, more precisely, of plasma) propelled by the internal activity of the star.
Astronomers captured these ejections using the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO), a facility devoted entirely to observing the Sun and its vicinity. And the result is as impressive scientifically as it is visually. We clearly distinguish these coronal mass ejections, in the form of bright swirls on the periphery of the star.
No risk for the earth
And according to information from NASA, relayed by SpaceWeather.com, some of them are heading straight for Earth. “These eruptions dispatched two, potentially three, coronal mass ejections toward Earth”, explains the agency. She also suggests the premiere could arrive as early as tomorrow, March 31. The second could arrive the next day, on April 1, and it is absolutely not a joke of the season.
The models estimate that we will be dealing with solar storms of classes G2 and G3; this corresponds to events of “moderate” intensity. But there is nothing to worry about though; While an extreme solar storm could indeed pose infrastructure concerns, these moderate events are not absolutely not dangerous.
Spectacular auroras to come?
The main terrestrial consequence of these eruptions could even be good news, at least for photographers. Indeed, the impact of this storm of ionized gas on the upper layers of the atmosphere could cause particularly spectacular auroras.
The phenomenon remains very difficult to predict with precision; there is therefore no guarantee that we will be entitled to it. But if so, it would be an opportunity not to be missed; indeed, this may be the last chance to profit from such a phenomenon for some time.
Indeed, our star recently entered a new solar cycle. This is a period of its activity that is traditionally quite quiet, with fewer sunspots and flares. Overall, astronomers therefore expect the sun to be quiet throughout 2022. Activity should then gradually increase until the peak of the current cycle, which is expected in 2025.