Sun activity: CME might bring aurora February 10

CME: Fiery yellow streamers close up with tiny Earth in corner for size.
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | Michael Teoh in Penang, Malaysia, took this image of solar prominences on February 8, 2022. Michael wrote, “The large prominence on the sun’s southeastern limb 1st emerged on February 3 and has since continued to grow. Following days of bad weather, today I decided to give it a try despite the presence of thin high-latitude clouds all over the sky. The prominence is simply too large to resist. Despite the low transparency, the seeing was rather good, and the result is surprising.” Thank you, Michael! Note also the relative size of Earth added to the image for comparison. Read more about a CME headed toward Earth, below.

CME headed toward Earth

As solar observers can tell you, the sun has been active lately. Sunspot activity started picking up in December and has been pockmarking the sun ever since. As solar cycle 25 heats up, the sun occasionally releases coronal mass ejections (CMEs). And sometimes these fountains of plasma race right in our direction. On February 6, a CME erupted from sunspot AR2939. It’s headed toward Venus and then Earth. Scientists expect it to arrive at Venus on February 9 and then Earth on February 10.

The 2022 lunar calendars are here. Order yours before they’re gone!

The CME won’t trigger a geomagnetic storm on Venus. As said:

It can’t; Venus has no internally-generated global magnetic field. Instead, the impact will erode a small amount of atmosphere from Venus’ unprotected cloudtops.

But earthly skygazers can keep their eyes open for possible auroras starting on February 10 when the CME buffets Earth. At the moment, NOAA is predicting a G1, or minor, geomagnetic storm. But even a G1 storm can produce northern lights visible from Michigan to Maine.

Bottom line: The sun released a CME on February 6. It’s headed toward Venus and Earth. People at high latitudes may see auroras starting February 10.

Read more: 40 Starlink satellites doomed by geomagnetic storm

February 9, 2022

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Kelly Kizer Whitt

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