Possible Impact following Massive M-4.4 Solar Flare/Coronal Mass Ejection
By Cap Allon
Yesterday (Nov. 29), Earth-orbiting satellites detected the biggest solar flare in more than 3 years.
NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory recorded the extreme-ultraviolet M-4.4 category blast, which was ejected off the eastern limb of the Sun:
NOAA’s GOES X-Ray Flux confirmed the M-4.4 categorization:
X-rays and UV radiation from the flare ionized the top of Earth’s atmosphere, producing a shortwave radio blackout over the South Atlantic. Ham radio operators and mariners in the affected regions noticed strange propagation effects at frequencies below 20 MHz, with some transmissions below 10 MHz completely extinguished.
Remarkably, this flare was even bigger than it seems, writes Dr Tony Phillips from spaceweather.com. The blast site is located just behind the sun’s southeastern limb. As a result, the explosion was partially eclipsed by the body of the sun. It might even have been an X-class event.
The flare also hurled a significant coronal mass ejection (CME) into space, shown below in a coronagraph movie from SOHO (Solar and Heliospheric Observatory: a spacecraft built by a European industrial consortium led by Matra Marconi Space -now Airbus Defence and Space– and launched in 1995):
Another look at the coronal mass ejection launched by the M4.4 flare earlier today. These images come from SOHO which is a space craft that looks at CMEs from earth’s point of view. A fast and impressive CME can be seen but as mentioned earlier, it is not directed towards Earth. pic.twitter.com/mVvOGebuon
— SpaceWeatherLive (@_SpaceWeather_) November 29, 2020
At first it appeared that the CME would completely miss Earth.
However, NOAA analysts now believe that the outskirts of the cloud could deliver a “glancing blow” to Earth’s magnetic field on Dec. 1-2 (maybe Dec. 3), as visualized in the screen-grab below–with Earth being the small yellow dot directly to the right of the larger, centrally-positioned Sun:
The impact will, at most, spark a minor G1-class geomagnetic storm with auroras over northern countries such as Canada, Iceland, Norway and Sweden likely. However, things could have played out very differently had the main body of the CME been Earth-bound. Then we would be anticipating a strong geomagnetic storm with the possibility of localized grid failure.
This coming CME is merely a warning shot of what to expect moving forward, any disturbances we see on Dec. 1-2 should be seen as a forewarning of what’s about to hit as Solar Cycle 25 continues its ramp-up. Next time we may not be so lucky. And “next time” could be just days away: the hidden sunspot that produced this major flaring event will rotate onto the Earth-facing solar disc during the next 24 hours or so. Eyes to the skies…