Another solar storm coming as average sunspot in February breaks 10 year record, says NOAA

As a result of Earth-directed CME, a solar storm is expected to hit our planet between March 4 and 5. This comes after NOAA revealed that the average number of sunspots observed in February has broken a 10 year record.

| Updated on: Mar 03 2023, 12:53 IST
Think you know our Sun? Check out THESE 5 stunning facts
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1/5 The Sun is the largest object in our solar system and is a 4.5 billion-year-old star – a hot glowing ball of hydrogen and helium at the center of the solar system. It is about 93 million miles (150 million kilometers) from Earth, and without its energy, life as we know it could not exist here on our home planet. (Pixabay)
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2/5 The Sun’s volume would need 1.3 million Earths to fill it. Its gravity holds the solar system together, keeping everything from the biggest planets to the smallest bits of debris in orbit around it. The hottest part of the Sun is its core, where temperatures top 27 million degrees Fahrenheit (15 million degrees Celsius). The Sun’s activity, from its powerful eruptions to the steady stream of charged particles it sends out, influences the nature of space throughout the solar system. (NASA)
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3/5 According to NASA, measuring a “day” on the Sun is complicated because of the way it rotates. It doesn't spin as a single, solid ball. This is because the Sun’s surface isn't solid like Earth's. Instead, the Sun is made of super-hot, electrically charged gas called plasma. This plasma rotates at different speeds on different parts of the Sun. At its equator, the Sun completes one rotation in 25 Earth days. At its poles, the Sun rotates once on its axis every 36 Earth days. (NASA)
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4/5 Above the Sun’s surface are its thin chromosphere and the huge corona (crown). This is where we see features such as solar prominences, flares, and coronal mass ejections. The latter two are giant explosions of energy and particles that can reach Earth. (Pixabay)
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5/5 The Sun doesn’t have moons, but eight planets orbit it, at least five dwarf planets, tens of thousands of asteroids, and perhaps three trillion comets and icy bodies. Also, several spacecraft are currently investigating the Sun including Parker Solar Probe, STEREO, Solar Orbiter, SOHO, Solar Dynamics Observatory, Hinode, IRIS, and Wind. (Pixabay)
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Know all about the solar storm expected to hit the Earth this weekend. (Pixabay)

After the M8.6 class solar flare erupted on the Sun on February 28, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) issued a solar storm warning. The warning came after a huge coronal mass ejection (CME) cloud was seen escaping from the solar surface. This solar storm is expected to reach the Earth this weekend, between March 4 and 5, and is likely to deliver glancing blows to our planet. Concerningly, the solar onslaught is expected to rise after data from NOAA revealed that the average number of sunspots observed in the month of February has broken a 10 year record.

The information around the development comes from a report by which stated, “Minor G1-class geomagnetic storms are possible on March 4th and 5th in response to an incoming CME. Hurled into space by the M8.6-class flare of Feb. 28th, the CME is not heading directly for Earth. Instead it will deliver only a glancing blow when it arrives”.

Solar storm threat intensifies as sunspot record breaks

The solar activity in the Solar Cycle 25 has been increasing steadily. Earlier predictions claimed that the peak of this solar cycle will be comparable to the previous one, which was considered mild as per historic performance. However, ever since the beginning of 2023, the average sunspot numbers have been extremely high. January broke a 9 year record while February has broken a 10 year record. In fact, data suggests that the Solar Cycle 25 has been outperforming projections 24 months in a row.

This is a major concern since the peak of this solar cycle is not expected to arrive before the end of 2024 or the first half of 2025. This means there is a lot of time for the Sun to increase the intensity of solar activity. This would mean more frequent X-class solar flare eruptions and solar storms that cross the G3-class threshold.

Solar storms in the G4 and G5 category can do an unimaginable amount of damage to our infrastructure. A powerful solar storm can potentially damage satellites, break down mobile networks and internet services, cause power grid failures and corrupt sensitive ground-based electronics such as pacemakers and ventilators.

For now, NOAA continues to monitor the solar activity and assess whether the Sun can go berserk in the next two years or not.

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First Published Date: 03 Mar, 12:48 IST
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