A ‘dead’ sunspot has just exploded, sending a ball of plasma flying towards Earth

(ORDO NEWS) — The sunspot explosion released a large amount of energy in the form of radiation, which also led to a coronal mass ejection (CME) – explosive balls of solar material – both of which can cause more intense aurora borealis in Earth‘s upper atmosphere. The material contained in this CME is likely to hit Earth on April 14, according to Space Weather.

Sunspots are dark areas on the surface of the Sun. They are caused by intense magnetic flux from the interior of the Sun, according to the Center for Space Weather Prediction. These spots are temporary and can last from a few hours to several months.

A dead sunspot has just exploded sending a ball of plasma flying towards Earth

The idea of ​​a “dead” sunspot is more poetic than scientific, says Philip Judge, a solar physicist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research’s (NCAR) High Altitude Observatory, but the sun’s convection is tearing these spots apart, leaving behind magnetically perturbed patches of the calm solar surface.

“Sometimes,” Judge wrote in an email to Live Science, “sunspots can ‘reset’, with more magnetism later (days, weeks) in the same region, as if there’s a weak spot in the convection zone, or as if there’s a an unstable region that is particularly good at generating magnetic fields.”

Whatever the future of AR2987, the sunspot released a Class C solar flare at 5:21 UT on Monday (April 11). Such flares occur when the plasma and magnetic fields above the sunspot are altered by voltage; they’re accelerating outward, Judge said, because they’d hit dense material if they were moving down toward the sun’s interior.

Class C flares are fairly common and rarely cause any impact directly on the Earth. Sometimes, as in the case of today’s eruption, solar flares can cause coronal mass ejections – huge ejections of plasma and magnetic field from the Sun that propagate into space at millions of kilometers per hour. According to SpaceWeatherLive, Class C solar flares rarely trigger CMEs, and when they do, CMEs are usually slow and weak.

When CMEs enter the magnetic field surrounding Earth, the charged particles inside the ejecta can travel down the magnetic field lines radiating from the North and South Poles and interact with gases in the atmosphere, releasing energy in the form of photons and creating shifting, blinding curtains known as aurora – northern and southern lights.

During quiet periods on the surface of the Sun, a stream of particles known as the solar wind is sufficient to cause aurora in the polar regions. During a major CME, a stronger perturbation of the planet’s magnetic field means that aurora could appear over a much wider range.

At the end of March, a so-called cannibalistic CME rushed towards Earth, which caused aurora in Canada, the northern United States and New Zealand, reports Space.com.

A CME ejection on Monday could lead to a minor geomagnetic storm (G1) on April 14, which means little impact on satellites and little fluctuation in the power grid, according to SpaceWeather. Aurora may become visible at lower latitudes than usual, as far north as northern Michigan and Maine.

According to the Center for Analysis of Solar Effects Data, part of the Belgian Royal Observatory, all this activity is quite normal for the Sun. This is a time of increased activity for our nearest star, which goes through periods of quiet and activity known as solar cycles.

The Sun is currently in its 25th solar cycle, the 25th since official observations began in 1755. The number of sunspots in this cycle is increasing and is expected to peak in 2025, which means more opportunities for solar storms and aurora.

On Sunday (April 10), strong geomagnetic storms were also observed. However, according to the Solar Impact Data Analysis Center, no other Earth-bound CMEs have been observed in the past 24 hours, other than the one ejected by the remnants of AR2987.

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