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Thursday, May 30, 2024

Solar storms on the horizon from sunspot AR3664

Astro enthusiasts, brace yourselves for another spectacular show in the sky as sunspot AR3664 makes a significant return.

Astro enthusiasts, brace yourselves for another spectacular show in the sky as sunspot AR3664 makes a significant return. This active region on the sun, responsible for the strongest geomagnetic storm of the year earlier this month, is poised to unleash more solar flares and coronal mass ejections (CMEs). This could result in blackouts, disruptions in communications, and awe-inspiring Northern Lights displays.

Power of AR3664

Earlier this month, sunspot AR3664 made headlines when it produced a G5-class geomagnetic storm, the first of its kind since 2003. This powerful storm caused the Northern Lights to be visible as far south as Arizona and Florida, an unusual and breathtaking phenomenon. The storm also led to widespread disruptions in communications, highlighting the intense power of solar activity.

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Sunspot AR3664’s initial barrage included an X12-class solar flare, one of the most powerful solar events in recent years. These solar flares, especially when accompanied by CMEs, can significantly impact Earth’s magnetic field, causing geomagnetic storms that affect satellites, GPS systems, and radio communications.

Current Solar Activity

Now, AR3664 has rotated back into view, and scientists are monitoring its potential to generate more significant solar events. According to Spaceweather.com, this sunspot cluster is expected to face Earth fully by the end of the week, coinciding with the new moon on June 6. During this period, the likelihood of Earth-directed solar flares and CMEs increases, raising the chances of geomagnetic storms.

One of the first indicators of AR3664’s renewed activity was an X2.9-class solar flare, demonstrating that the sunspot remains highly active and capable of producing powerful solar events. This flare caused temporary disruptions in shortwave radio communications and triggered a CME, though its impact on Earth was minimal due to its origin point on the sun’s surface.

Implications for Earth

As AR3664 continues to rotate into a more Earth-facing position, the potential for significant geomagnetic storms grows. These storms can cause a range of effects, from beautiful auroras to more disruptive impacts such as GPS and radio communication blackouts. The strongest storms, classified as G5, can even affect power grids and satellite operations.

The geomagnetic storm earlier this month was particularly intense due to the rapid succession of multiple CMEs. While the frequency of X-class solar flares has decreased somewhat, even a single, well-aimed CME could produce a significant geomagnetic storm. The key period to watch will be around June 4-6, when AR3664 is in the optimum position to affect Earth.

Looking Ahead

As we approach the peak of solar activity expected in late 2024 to 2025, we can anticipate more frequent and possibly more intense geomagnetic storms. While another G5-class storm this month is not guaranteed, the conditions are favorable for at least G3-4 storms, which would still provide spectacular auroral displays visible to millions of people at higher latitudes.

Read More: Geomagnetic solar storm will affect radio transmissions

The continued monitoring of AR3664 by the NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory and other solar observation instruments will provide more precise predictions about upcoming solar activity. Understanding the magnetic complexity of this sunspot region will be crucial in assessing the likelihood of further strong solar flares.