The Sun’s intense activity continues without signs of stopping. This week has been particularly eventful, with frequent solar flare eruptions and daily radio blackouts. Additionally, three separate solar storm incidents occurred, including a powerful G3-class storm on September 18-19, resulting in stunning aurora displays as far south as France. However, a new threat looms as another solar storm is brewing. Yesterday, on September 20, an M8-class solar flare erupted, releasing a coronal mass ejection (CME) cloud in the direction of Earth. Scientists are currently investigating whether this CME will impact our planet.
The solar flare was spotted at around 8 PM IST yesterday and was noted to be M8.23 in intensity, according to Space Weather Live’s X release. The flare explosion occurred in the sunspot region AR3435.
According to a report by SpaceWeather, the CME ejection has also been confirmed. It stated: “Yesterday, M8-class sunspot AR3435 (movie) threw a faint CME into space. It barely missed Earth as it passed our planet to the south late on September 23rd. The report also adds that Arctic sky watchers can see the glow of the aurora borealis resulting from from a near-miss situation.
Solar storm worry
Although the report mentioned that it is possible for the CME to escape from Earth, it is not set in stone. We’ve seen it many times before when a model’s prediction didn’t come true. This happens because we still do not have the technology to fully map and predict the path of a CME. However, these models offer a large number of correct probabilities, so hopefully we won’t have to endure another devastating solar storm this week.
Given the magnitude of the CME, if it hits Earth, it could lead to a G2-G3 geomagnetic storm. Such a storm can damage small satellites, affect mobile networks and GPS, and even pose a threat to ground-based electronics and power grids by vastly increasing the magnetic potential.
What does NOAA’s DSCOVR satellite do?
NOAA monitors solar storms and the Sun’s behavior with its DSCOVR satellite, launched in 2016. The returned data is then run through the Space Weather Prediction Center and a final analysis is prepared. Various measurements are made of the temperature, speed, density, degree of orientation and frequency of solar particles.