Electromagnetic apocalypse or hope for the aurora

A powerful flash of X9.3 on the Sun has already attracted a lot of attention, but according to the latest news, during it there was a large ejection of solar matter, and it turns out to be directed towards the Earth. Electromagnetic apocalypse or gorgeous sight - what to expect in the next day or two?

Flash X9.3, SDO / NASA Observatory photo

Despite the fact that the Sun is moving to a minimum of the eleven-year cycle of its activity (started in 2008), the number of spots, flares and coronal mass emissions does not drop to zero. Last Saturday, just over a day, a large sunspot has grown into the whole active area of ​​AR2673, so extensive that it could be seen with the naked eye.

Landscape September 3, photo by Bob King

The general scheme of sunspots on September 5, SDO / NASA photo

AR2673 close up

The active area turned out to be a very “explosive” type , at the beginning of the week there were at least seven moderate outbreaks, and on Wednesday at least six more. And one of them turned out to be extremely powerful, reaching 9.3 * 10 −4 W * m 2 at a maximum. A burst of brightness speaks better than numbers.

The flash itself has already caused some communication problems on Earth and in near-Earth space. But this was not enough - with it there was a coronal mass ejection. It should be noted that today there is no coherent theory describing the processes occurring in the active region, mass ejections are considered independent of flares, although they often occur together. A large amount of solar matter went flying at a speed of at least 1000 km per second. And it so happened that the Earth was on its way.

Mass ejection motion pattern, solarham.net animation

SOHO satellite view

The size of the plasma cloud is such that our planet will “bathe” in charged particles for a day or two. And these particles will interact with the magnetic field of the Earth and what is under it.

How dangerous is it?

Of the measured flares, the strongest occurred on November 4, 2003, and, since the sensors went off scale, there are disputes, classify it as X28, X35, or still X45. It is 3-5 times more powerful than now. In 2001 there was an outbreak of X20, in 2003 - X17.2, in 2005 - X17. And nothing, humanity survived and even managed to safely forget. The most famous cases in which space weather affected our lives were the Carrington event and the 1989 outbreak. The Carrington event took place on September 1, 1859. An extremely powerful solar flare occurred (it is estimated at X45) and the coronal mass ejection reached the Earth in just 17 hours, because the previous ejection literally cleared his way. Auroras could be observed at the latitude of Cuba, to the north under their light could be read, but the main electricity user, the telegraph, was seriously injured. The telegraph operators were electrocuted, the columns sparkled, and some cunning telegraph operators were able to work by disconnecting the device from the standard power supply and using the free energy of solar plasma.

Fantasy of a modern artist, how such an event might look like now

In March 1989, an outbreak of X15 occurred. After the usual three and a half days, the solar plasma reached Earth, and already much more technically advanced mankind started some problems - communication with several satellites disappeared, and the Discovery was orbiting the Shuttle Discovery began to lie the sensor of the power supply system, but the worst happened to Quebec residents in Canada — fuses on high-voltage power lines operated there, and hundreds of thousands of people were left without light for nine hours. Already after the incident, various power grids around the globe took steps to prevent such problems from recurring, but large transmission lines (especially high voltage), as well as transformers, by their very nature, are vulnerable to geomagnetic induced currents, so that during a very strong storm certain there will always be risks to power networks.

It is curious that an event comparable in power to the Carrington event occurred in 2012, but then a stream of charged particles flew past the Earth.

Conclusion: One should expect possible problems with communication, several satellites may temporarily or permanently fail, but nothing should be wrong.

Waiting for beauty

Another factor that determines the intensity of solar plasma exposure to the Earth is that the direction of its magnetic field is still unknown. If it coincides with the local magnetic field of the Earth, the effect will be minimal. But if it is the opposite, then we are waiting for a very bright aurora.

For the time being, the level of the magnetic storm Kr = 7 is predicted, that is, auroras can be seen in most parts of Russia.

Magnetic Storm, NOAA Forecast

From all the above, one simple conclusion follows - look at the sky in the evening of Fridays and even Saturdays — the chance to notice such beauty is quite real:

March 2015, the city of Kirov

You can also follow the reports of the AstroAlert group “Observational astronomy” , news and photos of those who have good weather (I, for example, promise rain), will probably be published there.

UPD: Mass ejection has already reached Earth at night in Moscow, the direction of the magnetic field is opposite (more auroras). Magnetic storm G4 (one class higher than predicted) and auroras at mid-latitudes in Canada have been recorded.

Source: https://habr.com/ru/post/406529/

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