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Sun erupts with 17 flares from single sunspot, sending solar storms toward Earth

At least 17 solar eruptions from a single sunspot on the sun have blasted into space in recent days, including some charged particles that may create a colorful sky show on Earth.

The sun eruptions originated from an overactive sunspot, called AR2975, which has been firing off solar flares since Monday (March 28). We may soon see some moderate sky storms on Earth due to the stellar event.

Sunspots are eruptions on the sun that occur when magnetic lines twist and suddenly realign near the visible surface. At times, these explosions are associated with coronal mass ejections (CMEs), or streams of charged particles that shoot into space. NASA's powerful Solar Dynamics Observatory captured stunning views of the solar eruptions, as did the the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory.

"The eruptions have hurled at least two, possibly three, CMEs toward Earth," wrote SpaceWeather.com (opens in new tab) of the event. NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the website added, suggest the first CME will arrive on Thursday (March 31), with at least one other expected on Friday (April 1.)

Related: The sun's wrath: Worst solar storms in history

One of 17 different flares from an active sunspot AR 2975 shines bright in this image from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory taken on March 28-29, 2022. (Image credit: NASA)

Modeling suggests that the particles may generate G2 or G3 (moderate) geomagnetic storms, although auroras (northern lights and southern lights) are notoriously hard to predict.

The year 2022 is expected to be relatively quiet for the sun overall, as we are still towards the beginning of the 11-year solar cycle of activity that began in December 2019. Cycle beginnings usually have fewer sunspots and fewer eruptions. Activity should increase as we approach the peak, forecasted to be in mid-2025. 

Several coronal mass ejections in March 2022 were captured by the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO). (Image credit: SOHO/ESA & NASA)

Scientists are debating how strong this current solar cycle will be, although forecasts so far indicate that the average number of sunspots may be lower than usual.

While this possible storm is only moderate, NASA and other space agencies keep an eye on solar activity to improve solar weather predictions. A strong flare aimed towards Earth, along with a large CME, may induce problems such as damaging power lines or disabling satellites.

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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.