(ORDO NEWS) — The active sunspot region on the Sun is going through hard times: on March 31 at 17:27 UT, AR2975 flared with the most powerful class that our Sun is capable of, an X-class with an intensity of X1.3.
This is the most powerful of the series of flares emitted by this region. At the time of writing, AR2975 has emitted 36 flares: one small B-class flare, 29 medium-sized C-class flares, 9 more powerful M-class flares, and one X-class monster.
Each flare class is ten times more powerful than the previous one, with multiple classes within a class. The most powerful flare in history to ever hit the Earth was the X28 flare in November 2003.
When solar flares and their associated coronal mass ejections (CMEs) head towards the Earth, different things can happen. A huge amount of solar particles are ejected into interplanetary space, which, colliding with the Earth’s magnetic field and atmosphere, cause geomagnetic storms.
For the most part, they will go more or less unnoticed by us ordinary surface dwellers. They could cause some radio and navigation outages, possibly some power grid fluctuations, and spectacular aurora lighting up the polar sky as particles accelerated along Earth’s magnetic field lines settle at the poles where they interact with the atmosphere.
As an example, a massive CME associated with two M-class AR2975 flares should have reached the Earth in the last few days, causing a strong geomagnetic storm. Unless you’ve photographed aurors, you probably haven’t noticed anything special.
The X-class flare and subsequent powerful M9 flare released by AR2975 did indeed occur on the Earth-facing side of the Sun, but this is no guarantee of geomagnetic storms. Currently, this region is rotating away from the Earth, and any solar particles launched into space can only deliver a glancing blow.
As Spaceweather quoted unnamed NOAA analysts as saying, “The CME associated with the X1 flare has been simulated and is unlikely to have a significant impact on Earth.” However, the likelihood of aurora appearing in the first days of April is high.
If you think you’ve been hearing a lot about the Sun’s anxiety lately, you’re not wrong. Our star is behaving very violently, erupting every day since mid-January, and before that it was very active. It’s quite normal. The Sun goes through activity cycles every 11 years, with a well-defined minimum (with minimal sunspot and flare activity) and a maximum.
The minimum occurs when the solar magnetic field is at its weakest. At this time, the magnetic field reverses, and the sun’s poles are reversed. From that moment on, the magnetic field intensifies, and the activity of sunspots and flares increases.
Since the last solar minimum was recorded in December 2019, we are currently seeing an increase in activity. Previous solar cycles show a similar level of activity at the same stage.
The solar maximum should take place around July 2025, and we have an unprecedented opportunity to observe the Sun.
The European Space Agency’s solar orbiter and NASA’s Parker Solar Probe are currently very close to our star, closer than ever. As Solar Maximum approaches, we expect to gain breathtaking insights into why the Sun behaves the way it does.
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