Giant “Lightning Bolt” of Plasma Zooms Through Sun’s Atmosphere
NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory has captured a lightning bolt-shaped plasma discharge, also called a coronal mass ejection, some 500,000 kilometers long whizzing through the Sun’s atmosphere.
That size is drastically bigger than any lightning bolts on Earth, but it’s business as usual for our favorite giant star.
The Sun’s magnetic field goes through an 11-year solar cycle. During this time the Sun’s north and south poles gradually switch places, and it takes around another 11 years for the magnetic fields to flip back.
We’re now in Solar Cycle 25, which began in December 2019, considered the solar minimum. Solar maximum is predicted to happen between November 2024 and March 2026. During this time, there is an increase in the number of sunspots, flares, and coronal mass ejections, some even reaching Earth and leading to more activity in the Auroras.
The magnetic field lines near sunspots tangle, cross, and reorganize, as the Sun rotates. This frenzy of activity often produces flares and coronal mass ejections like the latest giant “lightning bolt” – long enough to wrap around the globe 12.5 times.
According to Spaceweather.com, reports this latest mass ejection connected two sunspots, AR3192 and AR3190, and can be seen with the naked eye. For the next few years, the Sun is going to be hot in more ways than one. If you’re going to watch the party, be sure to wear eclipse glasses.