NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) has discovered two sunspots, and both might release M-class solar flares in the direction of Earth!
Over the past few months, Earth has experienced a lot of solar activity. In July, it was revealed that 2023 had broken a 21-year record for having the most sunspots. These sunspots were even more than what scientists initially expected. But why is this important? Well, the number of sunspots on the Sun tells us about the strength of the solar peak. More sunspots mean a higher chance of solar storms. Solar storms happen when particles from coronal mass ejections (CME) are released during a solar eruption. These eruptions, also called solar flares, occur at the center of sunspots. Sunspots are areas on the Sun’s surface with unstable magnetic fields. Now, in a recent update, NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) found not just one but two dangerous sunspots, and both might send M-class solar flares our way!
Threat of M-class solar flares
As per a spaceweather.com report, two sunspots, AR3511 and AR3513, are showing signs of having unstable “beta-gamma” fields. Now, what does that mean? Well, it suggests that there is acceleration happening at the top of the coronal loops. These sunspots might throw out M-class solar flares towards Earth. According to NASA, M-class solar flares are of moderate intensity and have the potential to cause short radio blackouts. This happens because when solar particles hit Earth, they impact radio communications and the power grid as they encounter the planet’s magnetic field.
The report explains, “Sunspots AR3511 and AR3513 have ‘beta-gamma’ magnetic fields that hold energy for M-class solar flares.”
Tech aboard NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory
The NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) relies on three important tools to gather information about different solar happenings. These tools are like the SDO’s superheroes! The first one is the Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager (HMI), which acts like a solar detective by measuring the magnetic field of the Sun in really high detail. It helps us understand how the Sun’s magnetic field changes over its visible surface.
Next up is the Extreme Ultraviolet Variability Experiment (EVE). This gadget is like a Sun-watching scientist. It keeps an eye on the Sun’s extreme ultraviolet light, helping scientists understand the Sun’s energy variations.
Lastly, there’s the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA), the SDO’s special camera. It takes continuous pictures of the Sun’s outer layers in seven different kinds of extreme ultraviolet light. This helps scientists study the Sun’s outer layers called the chromosphere and corona, helping us learn more about our favorite star. So, these three instruments work together to unveil the secrets of the Sun!