Sun Eruptions Launched A Colossal Cannibal Hurtling Towards Earth At 2 Million MPH
The Sun unleashed a fury of cannibals toward Earth, but there is no need to worry about being eaten alive. It is actually a "cannibal coronal mass ejection" caused by solar eruptions discharging from a singular sunspot.
Sunspot AR2975 has been detonating flares of electrically charged particles from the sun since Monday, March 28th. Since that time, 17 solar eruptions have been detected, with two of them headed toward Earth at 1,881,263 mph (3,027,599 km/h). According to spaceweather.com, the cannibal CMEs actually reached Earth earlier this morning, March 31st. If you happened to miss it, there is another X-class solar flare that originated from the same sunspot that produced another CME, and is predicted to reach Earth in the early hours of April, 2nd.
Sunspots are areas of reduced surface temperature caused by consolidations of magnetic flux that hinder convection. A solar flare is a large eruption of electromagnetic radiation from the Sun, or explosive jets of solar material called coronal mass ejections (CMEs). A cannibal CME happens when fast-moving solar eruptions overtake eruptions in the same region of space. As this occurs, they form a giant wavefront of particles that trigger a geomagnetic storm.
The term "cannibal" is added when at least two full-halo (Earth-striking) CMEs emerge from the chaos. The second CME was expected to overtake and "cannibalize" the first before striking Earth's magnetic field. CMEs generally take around 15 to 18 hours to reach Earth, according to The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC). Once they do, the Earth's magnetic field gets compressed slightly by the waves of highly energetic particles and resulting in a release of energy in the form of light that creates auroras in the night sky.
Courtesy of NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
Typically the energy from these storms are safely absorbed into Earth's magnetic field. However, more powerful storms have the potential to cause intermittent satellite navigation and low-frequency radio navigation problems. A storm back in February sent 40 SpaceX Starlink satellites plummeting back to Earth, as scientist warn that larger ones have the potential to drastically hamper the internet across the world.
Predicting when a CME will arrive is not easily done. But, if you are in an area where the Northern Lights may appear, you should be keeping an eye out for them over the next couple of days. It is always best to get away from any city lights as well.
The cannibal CME that struck Earth's magnetic field resulted in a G1-class geomagnetic storm, with a chance of stronger storms later today as Earth passes through the CME's magnetized wake. Aviators, mariners, and ham radio operators may have noticed unusual dispersion effects at the frequencies below 30 MHz. Another CME will probably reach Earth in the early hours of April 2nd, and could result in another G1-class geomagnetic storm, extending the period of geomagnetic unrest triggered on March 31st.
Top Image Courtesy of NASA