The Sun has been extremely active in the last few days. It has been buzzing with regions that are highly unstable. This also includes two large sunspots that are directly facing the Earth. The more violent of the two, sunspot AR3213, has exploded again and caused a solar flare eruption. This solar flare was also surrounded by a shock wave, which was captured by the NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO). Shock waves usually lift coronal mass ejection (CME) out of the sun’s atmosphere, so astronomers are worrying about impact of the solar storm.
The incident was reported by SpaceWeather.com which noted on its website, “Active sunspot AR3213 exploded during the early hours of Feb 10th (0303 UT), producing an M3.7-class solar flare and a shock wave in the sun’s atmosphere. Based on the drift rate of a Type II solar radio burst reported by the US Air Force, the shock speed was 820 km/s (1.8 million mph)”.
Sunspot unleashes solar flare towards the Earth
While the solar flare eruption was an M-class event, it is not clear whether it caused radio blackout on the Earth. Due to the position of the Earth with respect to the Sun, it is also possible that the affected region would entirely be in the Pacific Ocean and it did not affect any populated areas.
Shock waves after a solar flare eruption are usually an identifier for CME being released to space. However, NASA SDO remains confident that no CME escaped the Sun after this impact. CME particles most often cause solar storms on Earth, so it could have been a double whammy.
However, it might be a bit too early to celebrate. In a separate incident, a strange structure which looked like a canyon was seen on the Sun earlier today, February 11. SpaceWeather.com reported, “A canyon of fire just opened on the sun. Movie: global, regional. The walls of the canyon were carved by an erupting filament of magnetism, which went on to form the core of a CME now leaving the sun”.
It needs to be monitored to see the direction of the CME, but if it is Earth-directed, we might be in for another solar storm in a day or two.