A powerful solar eruption on the far side of the sun affects the Earth

Solar flares

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A massive eruption of solar material, known as a coronal mass ejection or CME, was detected escaping from the sun at 11:36 p.m. EDT on March 12, 2023.

The CME erupted from the side of the Sun opposite Earth. While researchers are still gathering data to determine the source of the eruption, it is currently believed that the CME came from the former active region AR3234. This active region was on the Earth-facing side of the Sun from late February through early March, when it emitted fifteen medium-intensity M-class flares and a powerful X-class gust.

Based on an analysis by the NASA Space Weather Satellite Office, the CME has been recorded traveling at an extraordinary speed of 2,127 kilometers (1,321 miles) per second, earning it a velocity-based classification of a Type R (rare) CME.

The CME simulation below shows the explosion erupting from the Sun (located in the middle of the central white dot) and passing over Mercury (the orange dot). The Earth is a yellow circle located at the 3 o’clock position.

Credit: NASA’s M2M Space Weather Bureau

The volcanic eruption likely hit NASA’s Parker Solar Probe head-on. The spacecraft is currently on its 15th closest approach to the sun (or perihelion), flying within 5.3 million miles (8.5 million kilometers) of the sun on March 17. On March 13, the spacecraft transmitted a green beacon tone indicating that the spacecraft is in its nominal operational mode. Scientists and engineers are waiting for the next download of data from the spacecraft, which will happen after close approachto learn more about this CME event and any potential implications.

The eruption is known as a CME halo because it appears to spread evenly from the sun in a halo, or ring, around the sun. Halo CMEs depend on the observer’s location, and occur when a solar eruption is aligned either directly toward Earth, or, as in this case, directly away from Earth. This expanding ring is seen in the view from the NASA/ESA Sun and Heliospheric Observatory, or SOHO, spacecraft shown below. SOHO watches the Sun from a position about a million miles from the Sun along the Earth-Sun line. From SOHO’s view, the Sun’s bright surface is obscured to reveal a fainter solar atmosphere and eruptions of solar material around it. The bright spot in the lower right side of the image is Mercury.

A massive eruption of solar material, known as a coronal mass ejection or CME, was detected escaping from the sun at 11:36 p.m. EDT on March 12, 2023. Credit: NASA/ESA/SOHO

Although the CME erupted from the far side of the Sun, its effects were felt on Earth. As the CME blasts through space, it creates a shock wave that can accelerate particles along the CME’s path to incredible speeds, much like surfers are propelled by an oncoming ocean wave. known as solar particlesThese fast particles, or SEPs, can travel the 93 million miles from the Sun to Earth in about 30 minutes.

Although SEPs are most commonly observed after encountering the ground solar eruptions, they are less common for eruptions on the far side of the Sun. However, Space ship Discover Earth orbit SEPs from eruption Starting at midnight on March 12, that means the CME was strong enough to launch a wide series of collisions that managed to reach our side of the Sun. NASA space weather scientists are still analyzing the event to learn more about how it achieved such an impressive and far-reaching effect.

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