Venus, Earth’s sister planet, is experiencing a period of extreme space climate this week after a giant sunspot not visible from Earth ejected a huge explosion of plasma in its direction.
Sunspots are areas of intense magnetic fields that temporarily disrupt the convection process. As a result, they no longer receive the swirling charged gases emanating from inside the Sun and their temperature drops. This is why they appear a little darker than the rest of the Sun’s surface where the magnetic field is not as intense.
We know that the number of sunspots increases during the active phase of the solar cycle, which is ongoing. In recent months, therefore, many of these spots have erupted, letting out charged particles, while others have just passed. Some of them, however, may come back even stronger.
This is particularly the case with the stain AR 3088. Last month it attracted the attention of scientists with its rotating magnetic field. Normally, the poles of a sunspot are aligned +/-, which means that the positive pole is on the left and the negative is on the right. In the case of the AR3088, the poles rotated 90 degrees. The positive pole is then finished at the top while the negative pole is finished at the bottom. Scientists still don’t know why. What we do know, however, is that this sunspot eventually drifted away from Earth to target another planet: Venus.
Two slaps in one week
On Monday, September 5, NASA’s STEREO-A probe, whose eye is constantly pointed at the Sun, spotted a colossal coronal mass ejection (a cloud of charged particles) released from our star’s atmosphere towards Venus. And the according to that event to hit the planet in a week. The first event, operated on August 30, was recorded by the European probe Solar Orbiter.
Of course, this latest eruption was no small event. ” I can safely say that the September 5th event is one of the largest (if not THE largest) solar energy particle (SEP) storms we have seen so far.“said Georgo Ho, a solar physicist at Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory.” This is at least an order of magnitude stronger than the storm recorded last week“.
Although the ejection undoubtedly disrupted the Venusian atmosphere, fortunately it appears to have largely missed the Solar Orbiter probe according to mission officials, although the spacecraft’s magnetometer was somewhat affected by the released energetic particles.
Due to the rotation of the Sun, this famous sunspot will face our planet again in a few days. In other words, Earth could also experience somewhat complicated space weather conditions in the coming weeks. Scientists on the Solar Orbiter mission, developed specifically to measure such events, will have a field day if an eruption occurs.