The photo of the Sun smiling

NASA shared a few weeks ago a nice photo. It is a photo of the Sun smiling. Through ultraviolet light, dark patches on the sun appear to form two eyes and a mouth. They are known as coronal spots. They are regions where the solar wind gushes rapidly into space.

It looks like just a curious image. But there are risks behind it. Solar wind is common in our Solar System. They are streams of charged particles traveling at enormous speeds released from the Sun’s corona. On Earth we do not notice their effects thanks to our magnetic field.

The picture of the Sun smiling is not necessarily a good omen.
The picture of the Sun smiling is not necessarily a good omen.

Damage to satellites

But sometimes we get caught up in solar storms. Northern lights are the visible result. But there are also other, more harmful effects. Charged particles can slam into our orbiting satellites. In March, forty Starlink satellites were damaged by a solar storm.

These coronal holes precede solar storms that can reach us in just hours. This photo from last 26th preceded a storm that hit Earth two days later. The photo of the Sun smiling was less friendly than it appeared. This is how SpaceWeather.com explained it.

Our star has an 11-year activity cycle determined by the number of spots. At this time we are reaching solar maximum. More solar storms are normal. A ‘quiet’ maximum, like the previous one, was expected. But all predictions fell short. Every week very powerful flares and flares are recorded, which throw our star all over the Solar System.

The Solar Orbiter mission will get closer to the Sun than ever before.
The Solar Orbiter mission will approach the Sun as never before.

Mission to the Sun

The peak of maximum activity is expected in 2025. “We should not be worried, but prepared. We cannot control nature, but we can understand it”. And so says Javier Rodríguez-Pacheco, Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of Alcalá. The Solar Orbiter mission, a spacecraft that is approaching the Sun, is underway. It will closely analyze our star to understand its mysteries, including solar cycles.

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