Solar storm fears on Earth rise after M8-class solar flare EXPLODES on the Sun

After the G3-class solar storm on September 19, another CME could be headed for the Earth after a powerful M8-class solar flare erupted on the Sun. Check details.

| Updated on: Sep 21 2023, 11:55 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)
Solar storm
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 whether another solar storm is headed our way. (NASA)

It appears that the Sun is not going to relent anytime soon. This week has been one of the most explosive ones when it comes to solar activity. We have seen regular solar flare eruptions and radio blackouts every day of the week, and there have been three different solar storm incidents, including a G3-class storm on the night of September 18-19, that resulted in aurora displays as far south as France. But now, another solar storm threat is building up for the Earth. Yesterday, September 20, an M8-class solar flare erupted on the Sun and released a coronal mass ejection (CME) cloud in the same direction as the Earth. Researchers are now trying to confirm whether it can hit our planet or not.

The solar flare eruption was detected at around 8 PM IST yesterday and was noted to be of the intensity of M8.23, as per Space Weather Live's post on X. The flare explosion occurred on the sunspot region AR3435.

According to a report by SpaceWeather, a CME ejection has also been confirmed. It stated, “Yesterday's M8-class solar flare from sunspot AR3435 (movie) hurled a faint CME into space. It's going to barely miss Earth, passing south of our planet during the late hours of Sept. 23th”. Further, the report adds that Arctic sky watchers may see an auroral glow, that is a result of the near-miss.

Solar storm concerns

While the report mentioned that there is a possibility that the CME will escape the Earth, it is not set in stone. We have seen it many times earlier when the prediction of a model did not come true. This happens as we still do not have the technology to entirely map and predict the path of CMEs. However, these models do provide a high number of correct probabilities, so hopefully, we do not have to endure another damaging solar storm this week.

Considering the intensity of the CME, if it does strike the Earth, it can result in a geomagnetic storm of G2 to G3 intensity. A storm like that can damage small satellites, impact mobile networks, and GPS, and even pose a threat to ground-based electronics and power grids by increasing the magnetic potential by huge amounts.

What does the NOAA's DSCOVR satellite do

NOAA monitors solar storms and Sun's behavior using its DSCOVR satellite which became operational in 2016. The recovered data is then run through the Space Weather Prediction Center and the final analysis is prepared. The different measurements are done on temperature, speed, density, degree of orientation, and frequency of the solar particles.

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First Published Date: 21 Sep, 11:55 IST