Over centuries, astronomers have observed the solar surface for the appearance of sunspots and found them to significantly increase in number as the Sun reaches the active phase of its solar cycle. The solar cycle is approximately an 11-year period when the Sun’s poles flip such that the North Pole becomes the South Pole and vice versa, flipping again over the next 11-year period.
Solar weather and auroras
As the Sun approaches its solar maximum, the appearance of sunspots has predictably increased. Not all sunspots lead to CMEs, though. Some just let out high amounts of radiation, called solar flares, which makes up for some rough space weather.
On Earth, we do not directly receive the energized particles or radiation from the Sun since the atmosphere block most of them. When it does, particles in the upper layers of the atmosphere get highly energized, leading to the formation of auroras.
Recently astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti shared some images of auroras, which according to her recent experience of staying 300 days in orbit, resulted from the most powerful solar storms she had encountered in space.
The Sun has been really active lately. Last week we saw the most stunning auroras I have ever experienced in over 300 days in space! https://t.co/r9hzZSoMNp
— Samantha Cristoforetti (@AstroSamantha) ) August 21, 2022
Aurora alert today
Last Friday, sunspot AR3089 gave out some M-class solar flares, which according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA’s) classification, is a moderate level flare. The flare also caused some radio blackouts in Europe and Africa.