New Year is going to be special for one more reason as potentially there would be some natural fireworks in the upper atmosphere just in the time for 2016. What else one could wish for that sky is joining us in the New Year’s celebrations.
On Monday, December 28, a sunspot cluster erupted that lead to an M-class flare directly at earth. The extreme-ultraviolet radiation initiated an ionization event causing a radio blackout over South America, Africa and the South Atlantic Ocean.
The event triggered a significant coronal mass ejection (CME) that is currently moving towards the direction of earth. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory has also recorded a major solar flare that created the coronal mass ejection. Owing to which, space weather forecasters have predicted about some natural fireworks. For most people, the only impact of the CME would be the potential light show that it would create.
NASA’s Tony Phillips said, “Sunspot AR2374 has an unstable ‘beta-gamma’ magnetic field that could explode again in the hours ahead. NOAA forecasters estimate a 55 percent chance of additional M-class flares and a 10 percent chance of X-flares on Dec. 28th”.
Latest flare and CME have been generated by the same sunspot that was earth-directed, which has significantly increased the chances of having a geomagnetic storm right in time for New Year’s. Therefore, those who live in high latitudes and keen to watch the magic then you may be lucky enough for a New Year treat as high-energy solar particles impacting atmospheric gases would generate bright auroras.
Flares and CMEs are different, but triggered by the same magnetic phenomenon. CMEs are bubbles of magnetized high-energy plasma that are ejected into space at high speed. CME can reach earth in several hours or may take even a few days depending upon the ferocity of the eruption.