Why is it in the news?
- NASA issues a warning amid a surge in sunspots, indicating the likelihood of multiple Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs) from the Sun.
Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs)
- CMEs are large expulsions of plasma and magnetic fields from the Sun’s corona, the outermost part of its atmosphere.
- Typically associated with sunspot groups, CMEs are often accompanied by solar flares and solar wind.
- Sunspots are dark spots on the Sun’s surface where the magnetic field is strong.
- They appear dark because they are cooler than other parts of the Sun’s surface.
- Solar wind is a stream of charged particles released from the Sun’s corona during CMEs.
- It can eject billions of tons of coronal material and carries an embedded magnetic field.
- Solar flares are intense bursts of radiation associated with sunspots.
- Categorized by strength: B-class (smallest), C, M, and X (largest).
- Each letter signifies a ten-fold increase in energy output, similar to the Richter scale for earthquakes.
- Aurora Formation: Interaction with Earth’s magnetic field leads to the formation of auroras.
- Radio Blackouts: Disruption of radio communications.
- Satellite Damage: CMEs can potentially damage satellites.
- Navigation System Errors: Impact on navigation systems due to magnetic field variations.
- Astronaut Exposure: Increased radiation exposure for astronauts in space.
Impact on Earth
- Solar flares directly affect the ionosphere and can disrupt radio communications on Earth.
- The fastest Earth-directed CMEs can reach our planet in as little as 15-18 hours after being expelled from the Sun.
- Space agencies and organizations monitor sunspot activities to issue warnings and take precautions for potential impacts on Earth’s systems.