Why have vicious solar storms plagued Earth? Know this Sun secret

Ever since the beginning of the year 2023, Earth has been hit by multiple solar storms. But why is Sun in such a violent mood? Know the secret.

| Updated on: Feb 15 2023, 11:05 IST
Do all solar activities like solar storms, CME, impact Earth? This is what NASA says
Solar flare
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)
Solar flare
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 flare
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)
Solar flare
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Know why Sun has been blasting the Earth with solar storms lately. (Pixabay)

In the last two weeks, our Sun has witnessed a period of excessively high solar activity and much of it has directly impacted Earth. In these 46 days, there have been 13 solar storm events and many solar flare eruptions that have caused trouble for various geoeffective regions. From radio blackouts to GPS disruptions and more, these events have troubled airlines, mariners, drone pilots as well as ham radio operators. But the central question is why has our Sun gone berserk? Find out the secret.

Why Sun has gone berserk

In the month of January, the first 15 days were troublesome with multiple solar storms and at least a couple of solar flare eruptions that shook the Earth. The most notable of them all was an X-class flare explosion that caused radio blackout in Australia and New Zealand. And again last week, the Earth was hit by three separate solar storms as well as an X1-class solar flare eruption that affected South America and the pacific region.

We also saw the number of sunspots on the Sun in the Month of January reach a 9-year high with a total of 144 sunspots. At one point, there were 11 different sunspots on the Earth-facing solar disk. All of these developments have concerned the astronomers as the Sun's onslaught does not seem to stop anytime soon.

On February 13, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration gave an update warning that more solar storms could be coming for the Earth as a result of “a number of sunspot groups [that] are present on the visible solar disk”.

All of this is happening because the Sun is nearing the peak of its solar cycle, a phase known as the solar maximum. Currently, the Sun is in its 25th solar cycle. For the unaware, the solar cycle is an 11-year period where the Sun undergoes changes in its magnetic activity, sunspot count and overall solar activity. Each solar cycle consists of a peak and a trough, known as solar maximum and solar minimum. During the solar maximum phase, the activity on the Sun dramatically increases and this is the period when solar storms and solar flares are seen at their highest. It should be known that we began counting solar cycles in 1755.

The Sun entered the solar cycle 25 in 2019 and it is expected that it will hit its peak in July 2025. And this is the main reason why the Sun has suddenly become so violent. The Earth is in for a rough ride. If the Earth is hit with a G5-class solar storm, it can not only damage satellites and disrupt wireless communications such as internet services, mobile network and GPS, it can also cause power grid failures and even disrupt electronics such as pacemakers on Earth.

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First Published Date: 15 Feb, 11:05 IST