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Sizzling solar storm puts planet Earth on aurora watch (photos)

Punches from the sun are overpowering skywatchers these days.

Yet another series of solar flares series shimmied out from the sun on Friday (Aug. 26) after a dazzling show of green-hued auroras crashed through the atmosphere just days ago.

"Sunspot AR3089 is crackling with a series of intensifying M-class [moderate] solar flares," SpaceWeather.com (opens in new tab) said in a Friday update. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory captured an especially powerful flare at 7:16 a.m. EDT (1116 GMT) as populations in Europe and Africa experienced a brief radio blackout.

A huge ejection of charged particles from the sun, known as a coronal mass ejection, may strike our planet on Monday (Aug. 29) and spark auroras around the Arctic Circle, according to a statement (opens in new tab) from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. (These shining lights occur when charged particles interact with Earth's magnetic field.)

The sun is certainly feeling forceful these days, as it is generating a surge of space weather to herald the start of its maximum of an 11-year solar cycle of activity.

Related: Hyperactive sunspot just hurled a huge X-class solar flare into space

More powerful flares careened from the sun on Friday, Aug. 26, 2022. (Image credit: NASA/SDO/Helioviewer.org)

Swarms of northern and southern lights were spotted earlier this week, including seen from space by the European Space Agency's Samantha Cristoforetti. (The veteran astronaut said it was the most powerful storm yet in her 300 days in space.)

The European Space Agency's Samantha Cristoforetti captured this view of auroras in August 2022, foregrounded by hardware on her home at the International Space Station. (Image credit: Twitter/Samantha Cristoforetti)

Most space weather at its most dramatic provides a great show for people on or near Earth, but a small number of particularly powerful storms can harm power lines, satellites and other vital infrastructure that our planet depends upon.

The sun is more prone to temper tantrums when it reaches its maximum of activity, as sunspots spread on the surface and magnetic lines twist and snap. If a storm is directed toward Earth, that can create auroras, blackouts and other effects.

Related: The worst solar storms in history

NASA, the European Space Agency and other space-faring entities keep an eye on solar weather 24/7 to provide the best protection possible for Earth, satellite managers and the astronauts working above our planet.

If you captured a stunning photo of the northern lights let us know! You can send in images and comments to Space.com by emailing spacephotos@space.com. Be sure to let us know your name, where you were observing from and what it was like to see the auroras.

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell, Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022. She was contributing writer for Space.com (opens in new tab) for 10 years before that, since 2012. As a proud Trekkie and Canadian, she also tackles topics like diversity, science fiction, astronomy and gaming to help others explore the universe. Elizabeth's on-site reporting includes two human spaceflight launches from Kazakhstan, three space shuttle missions in Florida, and embedded reporting from a simulated Mars mission in Utah. She holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, and a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science since 2015. Her latest book, Leadership Moments from NASA, is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday.