The Sun has been on some pretty intense shenanigans lately, but a recent flare on the other side seems like absolute scientific gold.
On the evening of September 5 GMT, a huge coronal mass ejection (CME) was recorded exploding on the far side of the Sun, sending a storm of radiation through the solar system. It was a type known as a CME halo, in which an expanding halo of hot gas can be seen spewing around the entire Sun.
Sometimes that means the CME is heading straight for Earth. However, this eruption was on the other side, so it is moving away, and we won’t see any of the usual effects of a solar storm here on our home planet.
But Venus was right in the path of the impending storm – and with it Solar Orbiter, a space probe jointly operated by the European Space Agency and NASA that is currently near Venus after gravity assist on September 4 as part of of its close observation mission of our star at home.
This gave us the rare opportunity to observe and measure a gigantic, distant CME, which is usually quite difficult for us to do.
“This is not a trivial event. Many scientific papers will study this in the years to come,” solar physicist George Ho of the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory told Spaceweather.
“I can safely say that the September 5 event is one of the biggest (if not THE biggest) solar energetic particle (SEP) storms we have seen so far since Solar Orbiter launched in 2020.”
It’s unclear exactly where the Sun erupted from, but it seems likely that the culprit was a sunspot region called AR 3088, which moved away behind the Sun’s disk in late August.
SOLAR DISCO: AR3088 stays alive – emitting light and matter as it travels around the Sun. It always offers an incredible spectacle even out of our sight. Here is a 2.5 day snapshot of the region ending with its large M2 explosion directed away from us. SDO 171/193/131 🧐🙀🤩😆👋 pic.twitter.com/lXGiUQC3Os
— Dr. C. Alex Young (@TheSunToday) August 31, 2022
In doing so, he left behind a farewell shot – a massive M2-class flare, aimed away from Earth.
Helioseismology – the study of the Sun’s internal oscillations, based on surface vibrations – can be used to detect sunspots on the far side of our star.
This is because accumulations of magnetic fields, such as sunspots, can affect the speed of sound waves bouncing around inside the Sun.
NASA helioseismic measurements suggest that AR 3088 may have grown after leaving our side of the Sun.
It’s relatively quiet on the Sun side facing Earth compared to the recent action with AR3088. A large eruption has recently occurred on the other side. A likely candidate, ole’ AR3088. The helioseismology shows a large region. Probably our old friend. 🧐🌞🙀👏 pic.twitter.com/fjp97I4Sp2
— Dr. C. Alex Young (@TheSunToday) September 6, 2022
Many spacecraft might not survive such an intense shock from the Sun. But Solar Orbiter, as its name suggests, was built to withstand quite a pounding from the sun.
And it is equipped with instruments to measure solar phenomena, including violent solar flares.
In fact, Solar Orbiter had been in the path of an earlier CME that erupted on August 30 GMT, just before the gravity assist maneuver.
Its instruments recorded, in both events, a significant increase in solar energetic particles. This information can help scientists categorize these events and better understand the behavior of the Sun and its impact on the space environment.
—George Ho (@mrgho06) September 6, 2022
AR 3088 is still on the other side of the Sun and, if it is to reappear, it will not do so for a few days. So it’s entirely possible that by the time it returns to us, it will be smaller and quieter.
Currently, all is calm in the Earth-ruled solar land, with no solar storms on the horizon.
There are a few sunspot regions visible, but they all look fairly subdued at the moment, with only milder CMEs erupting on the near solar side.
However, the Sun is reaching the peak of its 11-year activity cycle, so we should see more powerful flares in the not too distant future.
If you want to stay up to date with solar weather forecasts and what they mean for Earth, you can check in at you can follow NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center, British Met Office, Australian Bureau of Meteorology and SpaceWeatherLive to their respective websites.
#gigantic #solar #flare #emerged #side #sun