A Sunspot Larger Than Earth Begins to Activate

The sunspot appeared last week as large but relatively calm in the active region 2882, or AR2882.

But now it begins to activate and the AR2882 erupts with a powerful coronary mass ejection (CME) on the morning of October 9 (06:40 UT), producing strong M1.6 class solar radiation aimed at the Earth. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory captured the extreme ultraviolet explosion:

A Sunspot Larger Than Earth Begins to Activate
Class C solar mass eruption observed on October 8 by Solar Observatory Dynamics. . Credit: NASA
A Sunspot Larger Than Earth Begins to Activate
Image of AR 2882 taken with SOHO. Bottom right a comparison of Earth and Jupiter. Credit: ESA / NASA

The eruption’s radiation ionizes the upper layer of the Earth’s atmosphere. As a result, a short wave radio eclipse occurs over the Indian Ocean (see the map of the eclipse below). Aviators, radio amateurs and ships at sea may have noticed strange effects at frequencies below 25 MHz.

A Sunspot Larger Than Earth Begins to Activate

New images from NASA’s SOHO solar mission confirm that the explosion ejects CME almost directly to Earth. This is called a ‘CME halo’ because it seems to completely envelop the Sun:

A Sunspot Larger Than Earth Begins to Activate

The storm is likely to reach Earth on October 12, potentially causing geomagnetic storms from class G1 to class G2. A better estimate of the CME arrival time can be obtained from the NOAA computer modeling that is underway now.

AR 2882 has a so-called “beta-gamma” magnetic field, which means that it can be a source of even stronger M-class sunspots.

A Sunspot Larger Than Earth Begins to Activate
The solar photosphere in the area of AR2882 in high resolution. Photographed by Philippe Tosi on October 9, 2021.

A solar eruption is an explosion on the Sun’s surface caused by the sudden release of energy in twisted magnetic fields (usually above sunspots). They generate a burst of electromagnetic radiation ranging from radio waves to X-rays and gamma rays.

Scientists classify solar flares according to the brightness of X-rays in the wavelength range from 1 to 8 angstroms. There are 3 categories:

1. Class X events are large and powerful, capable of causing radio wave eclipses across the planet as well as prolonged radiation storms.

2. Class M eruptions are medium and they can cause brief eclipses of radio waves that affect the Earth’s polar regions. Small radiation storms can sometimes occur as a result.

3. In comparison to the X and M class events, C-class eruptions are small and have little impact on Earth.

A view of AR 2882 taken On October 10 from the Gurudev Observatory.

READ MORE: The Carrington Event – The Most Powerful Geomagnetic Storm in History

A Sunspot Larger Than Earth Begins to Activate

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