Powerful Flares Just Erupted on The Sun

Space.com

Some of the most powerful flares our Sun can muster have just erupted, each directed in such a way to have a noticeable effect here on Earth.
On 5 May 2024, an X1.3 flare and an X1.2 flare erupted from active sunspot cluster AR 3663, at 0601 and 1154 UTC, respectively, according to the NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center.
Each flare produced a radio blackout here on Earth, and we may see ongoing effects, if there were accompanying coronal mass ejections (CMEs) that hurled charged particles in our direction.
AR 3663, however, appears to be the most active.
It appeared on 30 April and has to date emitted 14 M-class flares and 3 X-class flares – the second most and most powerful flares the Sun can produce.
Solar flares are spectacular eruptions of plasma on the surface of the Sun, powered by the snapping and reconnecting of magnetic field lines over sunspots – regions where the solar magnetic field is temporarily stronger.
Sometimes, a solar flare is accompanied by a CME.
Currently, there are no geomagnetic storms predicted for the two flares of 5 May, but there are geomagnetic storms just about to hit Earth from a previous solar flare.

NEUTRAL

Recently, our Sun has been producing some of its strongest flares ever, and each one is aimed to cause noticeable effects on Earth.

The NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center reports that on May 5, 2024, at 0601 and 1154 UTC, respectively, an X1.3 and an X1.2 flare erupted from the active sunspot cluster AR 3663.

Here on Earth, each flare caused a radio blackout, and if there were concomitant coronal mass ejections (CMEs) that flung charged particles in our direction, we might continue to experience effects.

But that’s not a given; according to the UK Met Office, no clear Earth-directed CMEs were seen. Nonetheless, it’s possible that there was a CME that we missed seeing because the coronagraph technology that is used to detect CMEs is presently either limited or nonexistent.

As of this writing, the Sun’s Earth-facing side has nine sunspot clusters, or regions, separated by more than 150 sunspots. It seems that AR 3663 is the most active, though. Since its appearance on April 30, it has released three X-class flares, which are the second-strongest and most powerful flares the Sun is capable of producing, and fourteen M-class flares.

It is predicted by scientists that before the region rotates to the far side of the Sun, away from Earth, it will produce a few more M-class flares and possibly an X-class or two.

The breaking and rejoining of magnetic field lines over sunspots, or areas of the solar magnetic field where the field is momentarily stronger, is what causes solar flares, which are spectacular eruptions of plasma on the surface of the Sun. There may be brief radio blackouts due to the X-ray and UV light bursts from these explosions that can lash Earth’s ionosphere on the side that receives sunlight.

A CME can occasionally accompany a solar flare. The Sun is spitting out a massive amount of plasma and magnetic field into space. Although they take a little longer to reach Earth because plasma moves a little more slowly than light, these eruptions do occasionally occur.

The consequences, known as a geomagnetic storm, are considerably more severe when they do, however, materialize.

Upon collision with Earth’s magnetosphere, the CME generates electrical currents that have the potential to flow through the power grids, leading to power outages and fluctuations. Satellites may need to make course corrections due to currents generated in low-Earth orbit, and radio and navigation signals may also be impacted.

But the aurora is the best feature. The Earth’s magnetosphere, atmosphere, and solar particles interact to produce an ethereal glow in the night sky around the poles. This glow is also visible during the day, but it is too bright to be seen.

The two flares on May 5 are not currently expected to cause geomagnetic storms, but there are geomagnetic storms from a previous solar flare that are very close to Earth.

A CME is predicted to produce a moderate geomagnetic storm on May 6 that will cause power grid fluctuations, satellite drag, and fading radio signals at high latitudes. On May 3, AR 3663 erupted in an X1.6 flare.

Additionally, according to the NOAA, Aurora “may be seen as low as New York to Wisconsin to Washington state.”. ****.

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