Two massive ‘active regions’ on the Sun rotate into Earth’s field of view

Solar activity increased in January. 13 as the Sun’s massive active regions turned around its eastern edge toward the Earth.

The location of the active regions, designated NOAA 13169 and NOAA 13170, was previously predicted by the Global Oscillation Network Group (GONG), a network of telescopes across the Earth that continuously monitor the sun. The new visible active regions join other current Earth-facing active regions, NOAA 13190, 13191 and 13192, which cover the northern and southern hemispheres of the Sun.

Observations from GONG, which is operated by the National Science Foundation (NSF), also showed that as these active regions turn to face Earth, our planet will witness an increase in explosive solar events, including several M and C class solar flares.

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This prediction was also confirmed as the Sun was involved in a strong manifestation of solar flares, which, fortunately, so far have not posed a danger to the Earth, except for minor radio outages associated with M-class flares.

“The image of the far side of GONG gave us a two-week forecast that two large active regions will soon appear on the Earth side of the Sun, which will increase the likelihood of large flares and other solar activity that could negatively affect the Earth,” Alexey Pevtsov. This was stated in a statement by the deputy director of the National Solar Observatory’s Integrated Synoptic Program (NISP), which includes GONG. (will open in a new tab) “It’s like an early warning of possible freezing temperatures in the spring – the weather forecast may have a lot of uncertainty, but you can start preparing to take mitigating measures to save your blooming garden from freezing.”

GONG relies on a technique called helioseismic holography, which uses sound waves bouncing off the interior of the Sun to create a picture of solar activity on the away side of our star.

The huge active regions of the Sun that are now facing Earth have previously produced coronal mass ejections (CMEs), but so far none of them have been directed towards Earth. CMEs are explosive ejections of plasma and charged particles capable of transporting billions of tons of material from the Sun at speeds of hundreds of miles (or kilometers) per hour.

CMEs can be harmful to astronauts and space technology, and if these highly magnetic bursts of plasma strike Earth’s protective magnetic bubble, the magnetosphere, they can create a disturbance that sends particle radiation into the Earth’s upper atmosphere.

This disturbance can lead to electrical surges that can overload power grids and communications infrastructure, resulting in massive power outages. For example, during the Carrington event of 1859, a geomagnetic storm caused the failure of telegraph systems around the world.

Active regions of the Sun will face Earth until about Wednesday (January 25), after which they should move over the western edge of the Sun and disappear from view.

Solar activity will continue to increase as the Sun approaches the solar maximum phase of the current 11-year solar cycle, which has been labeled Solar Cycle 25; solar maximum should occur in 2025.

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