Earth Just Dodged a lot of CMEs

Aug. 30, 2022: It seemed like sunspot AR3088 would never stop exploding. Over the past four days, the strangely-magnetized active region produced more than a dozen M-class solar flares:

Each X-ray peak in the graph above produced a corresponding shortwave radio blackout on Earth. No part of our planet was untouched.

More than half of the explosions also produced a coronal mass ejection (CME). Earth dodged them all. Only one and maybe two delivered glancing blows of no consequence. All the rest sailed harmlessly into space.

The simple reason why: AR3088 was never facing Earth. Most of the explosions occured while the sunspot was approaching or even rounding the sun’s western limb.

This movie from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory is a good example. It shows a flare from AR3088 on Aug. 29th partially eclipsed by the edge of the sun. The explosion registered M9 on GOES satellite X-ray sensors, but the uneclipsed flare was probably much stronger–perhaps even an X-flare.

If the sunspot had been facing us, we might now be experiencing strong geomagnetic storms with spectacular low-latitude auroras. Maybe next time

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