Our sun had quite a busy day. On August 1st NASA observed a C3-class solar flare, a solar tsunami, multiple filaments of magnetism lifting off the stellar surface, large-scale shaking of the solar corona, radio bursts, a coronal mass ejection and the list goes on! The CME (coronal mass ejection) was one of the fastest ever recorded, racing towards Earth at 1000 km/sec.
That sounds pretty nerve-racking, but there's no need to sweat. All of this activity is completely normal. In fact, it happens every 11 years!
The spike in solar activity tells us that the sun is warming up for its next solar maximum. It all has to do with magnetism. A solar maximum is when the sun's magnetic field is the most distorted, which is why we see so much turbulence.
And there is even better news for avid sky gazers! A solar maximum is the perfect time to catch a glimpse of an aurora borealis, otherwise known as northern lights. This beautiful display is caused by the charged particles, carried by solar winds, that crash into Earth's atmosphere.
Watch the CME captured by NASA's STEREO COR1 telescope:
- Spacecraft Observes Coronal Mass Ejection (NASA)
- What is a Solar Maximum and What Happens (SPACE.com)