Solar storm ALERT! Unstable sunspot takes aim at the Earth; NOAA reveals incoming danger

An unstable sunspot is directly facing the Earth and is crackling with solar flares. NOAA has issued a warning for a solar flare eruption that can lead to a powerful solar storm strike on our planet.

| Updated on: Oct 03 2023, 13:23 IST
Do all solar activities like solar storms, CME, impact Earth? This is what NASA says
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1/5 Sun is a source of energy and a lot of activities keep on happening on the fireball. But can Earth be impacted by solar activities? Before we tell you that, it is important to know what solar activity is? According to NASA, solar flares, coronal mass ejections, high-speed solar wind, and solar energetic particles are all forms of solar activity. All solar activity is driven by the solar magnetic field. (NASA)
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2/5 Solar flares impact Earth only when they occur on the side of the sun facing Earth. Because flares are made of photons, they travel out directly from the flare site, so if we can see the flare, we can be impacted by it. (Pixabay)
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3/5 Coronal mass ejections, also called CMEs, are large clouds of plasma and magnetic field that erupt from the sun. These clouds can erupt in any direction, and then continue on in that direction, plowing right through the solar wind. Only when the cloud is aimed at Earth will the CME hit Earth and therefore cause impacts. (NASA)
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4/5 High-speed solar wind streams come from areas on the sun known as coronal holes. These holes can form anywhere on the sun and usually, only when they are closer to the solar equator, do the winds they produce impact Earth. (NASA)
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5/5 Solar energetic particles are high-energy charged particles, primarily thought to be released by shocks formed at the front of coronal mass ejections and solar flares. When a CME cloud plows through the solar wind, high velocity solar energetic particles can be produced and because they are charged, they must follow the magnetic field lines that pervade the space between the Sun and the Earth. Therefore, only the charged particles that follow magnetic field lines that intersect the Earth will result in impacts. (NASA)
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Know all about the solar storm that can strike the Earth in the coming days. (Pixabay)

While the Earth has escaped solar storms lately, it has been riddled with radio blackouts owing to solar flare eruptions that send extreme ultraviolet radiation toward our planet. Just yesterday, an M2.5-class solar flare erupted, but as it was not Earth-directed, the current predictions do not reveal any threat. However, this is set to change as an unstable sunspot named AR3450 has now appeared directly in front of our planet, and is crackling with solar flares. Space weather researchers believe any explosions now will be geoeffective. On top of that, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) forecast models have predicted a chance for a solar flare eruption today, October 3, that can lead to powerful solar storm activity on Earth.

Claiming the Earth to be in the line of fire, reported, “An unstable sunspot is directly facing Earth. AR3450 has a 'beta-gamma' magnetic field that harbors energy for M-class solar flares. NOAA says there's a 40% chance it will erupt today. If so, the explosion will be geoeffective”.

This information comes coupled with another report from Space Weather Live's X account that posted an M1.9 flare eruption yesterday evening from the same region. Although moderate, its intensity was not as high, and the transitional sunspot was still coming to Earth's view, which means any coronal mass ejection (CME), if at all, will miss the Earth. But, this does highlight the high activity potential of the sunspot region.

Solar storm could soon strike the Earth

For now, we will have to wait and see if the NOAA prediction comes true and if a solar flare indeed erupts today. As sunspots continuously move in and out of Earth's view, the window for a geoeffective event is at maximum a couple of days long.

In case a flare does erupt, it can send CME to our planet which can give rise to an intense solar storm activity that goes as high up as G3-class. Such solar storms can not only damage satellites and disrupt wireless communications such as internet services, mobile networks, and GPS, but they can also cause power grid failures and even disrupt electronics such as heart pacemakers on Earth.

How NASA SDO collects its data

The NASA SDO carries a full suite of instruments to observe the Sun and has been doing so since 2010. It uses three very crucial instruments to collect data from various solar activities. They include the Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager (HMI) which takes high-resolution measurements of the longitudinal and vector magnetic field over the entire visible solar disk, Extreme Ultraviolet Variability Experiment (EVE) which measures the Sun's extreme ultraviolet irradiance, and Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA) which provides continuous full-disk observations of the solar chromosphere and corona in seven extreme ultraviolet (EUV) channels.

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First Published Date: 03 Oct, 13:19 IST