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New northern lights in Germany?  Sunspot cluster AR3664 returns with a powerful bang

New northern lights in Germany? Sunspot cluster AR3664 returns with a powerful bang

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Sunspot cluster AR3664 has returned and could cause the aurora borealis once again. Experts and Northern Lights enthusiasts watch them with bated breath.

FRANKFURT – Sunspot cluster AR3664 is 17 times larger than Earth and caused significant activity on the Sun until mid-May. It has been the cause of numerous solar flares and coronal mass ejections. Two special events stood out: On the night of May 10 to 11, charged solar plasma emanating from the cluster reached Earth. This gave rise to colorful northern lights that were visible even in the far south of Europe and throughout Germany.

A few days later, when the sunspot cluster had already orbited slightly away from Earth, it caused the most powerful solar flare of the current solar cycle. the Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) of the US National Meteorological and Oceanographic Agency (NOAA) commented on the X8.7 eruption with the words: “Eruptions of this size are not common now that sunspot cluster AR3664 has returned.”

Sunspot cluster AR3664 returns with a major solar flare

It takes the Sun about 25 days to complete a full revolution around its axis. During this time, sunspots have remained stable and can now be seen on the Sun again from Earth. Even before AR3664 became fully visible, it returned with an impressive solar flare. SWPC An eruption of magnitude X2.8 was reportedHowever, it will not cause auroras on Earth because no plasma is released into space.

Auroras occur when charged solar plasma, expelled into space during coronal mass ejections (CMEs), collides with Earth's magnetic field. In the Earth's atmosphere, a so-called geomagnetic storm causes different gases to glow, causing the aurora to appear in different colors.

Sunspot cluster AR3664 on May 10, 2024. On the night of May 10 to 11, it sparked an aurora borealis that was visible from afar.  After one revolution of the Sun, AR3664 becomes visible from Earth again.  (archive photo)
Sunspot cluster AR3664 on May 10, 2024. On the night of May 10 to 11, it sparked an aurora borealis that was visible from afar. After one revolution of the Sun, AR3664 becomes visible from Earth again. (Archive photo) © IMAGO/Ian L. Sitren

The northern lights are directly related to solar activity

The northern lights are usually seen near the North and South Poles – in the north they are called the Northern Lights and in the south they are called the Australian Lights. However, it is very rare for the northern lights to be visible with the naked eye in central or even southern Europe. But on the night of May 10 to 11, the solar storm that struck Earth was so powerful that the northern lights could be seen as far south as possible.

No one can predict how a sunspot cluster will behave. However, it is entirely possible that it could cause aurora borealis to occur on Earth again. British solar physicist Ryan French said: “It is clear that the region is still capable of producing X-magnitude solar flares.” On X (formerly Twitter). “But the question is whether it can do so at the same scale and frequency as it did earlier this month,” he adds. French confirms that “magnetic observations of the region (to be named) during the next day or two will help answer the question.”

The sun is approaching maximum activity

As the sun approaches its maximum activity, experts expect more powerful solar storms in the coming months. However, they only hit Earth when a coronal mass ejection is directed toward our planet. We will see in the coming days whether sunspot cluster AR3664 can cause northern lights across Germany again. But what is certain is that the AR3664 cluster will be closely watched by aurora enthusiasts and experts, as long as it is still around. (unpaid bill)

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