The sun erupts in a new stellar photo
The sun is a beehive of blazing activity in a stunning new photo of a NASA spacecraft.
NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory caught the sun in action as it launched a medium-sized flare into space on Wednesday (April 20). The eruption was just one of dozens of plasma projectiles the sun generated in just a few hours.
This particular eruption peaked Wednesday at 9:59 p.m. EDT (1:59 p.m. GMT Thursday, April 21), NASA officials said in a statement. The agency did not provide a specific forecast associated with the event, but said that “solar flares are powerful bursts of energy. .”
Although NASA did not share a forecast associated with the event, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said there is a moderate chance of auroras over the next 24 hours.
Related: Earth Braces for Solar Storm, Potential Aurora Borealis Displays
This latest missive came after the sun sent out dozens of solar flares in a matter of hours, including the strongest class of solar flares, the X-class. The largest flares came from sunspot AR2992, which found at the edge of the sun. Since Earth was not quite within firing range, it appears that there is no set of incoming auroras associated with this sunspot explosion.
Auroras can occur after a solar flare when charged particles from coronal mass ejections reach Earth and cross our planet’s magnetic field lines. When the particles hit pieces of Earth’s atmosphere above us, the atmospheric molecules are “excited” and begin to glow. The forecast for Wednesday, April 20 suggested that a CME was brewing, but that it probably wouldn’t hit Earth given that the sunspot was pointing in a direction mostly away from our planet.
The blazing sun and the huge sunspot groups on its surface show that the sun is beginning to emerge from the quieter start of the solar cycle, which began in 2019. The 11-year cycle is expected to peak in 2025.
Most CMEs are harmless, aside from airshows and brief radio blackouts. But NASA and other agencies are keeping a close eye on the sun for larger events. The most powerful storms, although rare, can create problems with infrastructure such as satellites or power lines.