How a massive solar outburst will change the look of the night sky

by Sebastian Chingino Key features of the sun in the upper right and a meteor fragment in the lower left cGraphic: The National Solar Observatory A massive outburst of cosmic particles, electrons and protons…

How a massive solar outburst will change the look of the night sky

by Sebastian Chingino

Key features of the sun in the upper right and a meteor fragment in the lower left

cGraphic: The National Solar Observatory

A massive outburst of cosmic particles, electrons and protons accelerated to incredible speeds by the super-hot eruption of a massive sunspot took place inside the sun’s atmosphere.

The event caught the attention of scientists across the world and triggered many gremlins to erupt with unexpected bursts of powerful solar flares. (Solar flares can cause radio blackouts and interfere with GPS, communication and weather satellites.)

Planets fall back, star impacts and comets collide in sky-shattering solar event https://t.co/OiJ5Rhi5Z3 — Motherboard (@motherboard) December 8, 2018

The Solar Storm in Sky-Shattering Solar Event will be here soon https://t.co/OSnlpg3Rcv — Nothing but Green (@Gavin_Green) December 8, 2018

Nowadays, researchers like myself and astronomers like Prof. Erik Cape of the W.M. Keck Observatory are busy tracking down the powerful particles from the active sunspot. We are doing so by examining the echoes and physical processes that take place on Earth’s surface, and in space.

A stellar event in the Solar System: a chain reaction of solar flares, coronal mass ejections and eruptions https://t.co/FBqs5hQBYU pic.twitter.com/sH70BFbMtj — Space.com (@Space_com) December 8, 2018

In our case, the signals of the intense solar event comes from the many super-heated particles hitting Earth.

Electric fields build up between charged particles and the Earth’s magnetic field. As electrons and protons collide at high speed, they create turbulence that causes electric currents and produces our planet’s aurora borealis in the northern and southern latitudes.

An artist’s depiction of a pair of electrically charged particles as they slam into Earth’s magnetic field. (National Solar Observatory)

The South Pole is cooled down by the Earth’s magnetic field and negative energy from the Sun’s energy fields decreases the speed of particles and cause an aurora in the northern latitudes.

The Aeolian tail of a fast moving solar wind (left) and a visible aurora (right)

When an energetic particle or plasma hits the Earth’s magnetic field, the current from the Earth’s magnetic field causes ionization at the surface of the Sun – a super-heated sphere that forms the solar corona and protects the planet from high winds and radiation from the Sun.

A night sky full of solar energy is shown. (National Solar Observatory)

Solar magnetic fields were triggered by the high energy collision of particles caused by the Sun’s Sunspot 12444.

Many things drive the solar wind and these include the region of active regions in the Sun’s atmosphere, which are racked by magnetic fields.

However, the big growth of magnetic fields and the power of these interactions is probably associated with solar flares.

A flashing solar flare at the peak of the active region. The left node of the pattern shown. A solar flare is a massive release of energy in the Sun. (Public domain)

Fast magnetic fields can accelerate particles to incredible speeds and generate outbursts of solar flares. These events are triggered by the instigation of fast magnetic fields from fast accelerating particles.

Having experienced the explosion from the active region on this particular sunspot, the greatest challenge is to see how the signals from this large occurrence will pass through the Sun’s atmosphere.

Solar wind and solar flares excite our universe, hastening the emergence of stars and potentially reshaping life on Earth.

Learn more about the Sun in our space station-based Visualization Studio »

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