Powerful solar flare to hit Mars on September 1

Satellites in Earth's orbit identified an eruption of the M1-class solar flare into space on August 26
Mrigakshi Dixit
Representational image of the Sun
Representational image of the Sun


The Sun has unleashed powerful coronal mass ejections (CMEs) directed straight toward Mars. As a result, the red planet could display faint auroras on Friday, September 1, stated spaceweather.com. Furthermore, the CME's high intensity might "erode a small amount of the planet's atmosphere." 

CMEs are enormous expulsions of magnetized plasma and radiation from the Sun's corona (outer atmosphere) and are occasionally triggered by powerful solar flares. 

Satellites in Earth's orbit identified an eruption of the M1-class solar flare into space on August 26.  M-class flares are said to be the second most intense form of solar outburst and are medium-sized. It might cause momentary radio blackouts in Earth's polar regions. 

In this case, earthlings are safe because the flare is not projected to hit the planet. 

The mysterious origin 

Scientists are unsure what produced this M-class flare as the source cannot be observed from Earth. 

“Neither NASA's Perseverance Mars rover (which has a direct view of the area) nor helioseismic echoes of the sun's farside indicate a sunspot at that location [sun’s eastern limb] — so it's a bit of a mystery,” mentioned the report. 

The Sun's rotation may allow telescopes to detect the mysterious source in the following days. 

If this CME interacts with Mars' thin atmosphere, it may cause faint and patchy auroras

On the other hand, Mars harbors relatively weak magnetic fields due to its dead core. Scientific studies have revealed that Mars possesses a weak remnant of a magnetic field originating from its crust, but it is a feeble phenomenon that offers little protection.

According to NASA, for this reason, Martian auroras may appear practically anywhere on the planet. And strong CMEs might further erode the planet's thin atmosphere due to the limited protection from its magnetic fields. 

Auroras occur on Earth when charged particles from the solar wind interact with gases in the planet's upper atmosphere. This interaction stimulates those atoms, releasing energy and causing them to light up. The interaction occurs in the magnetosphere, an area dominated by a planet's protective magnetic fields near Earth's poles. 

This results in the spectacular display of the northern lights at the Earth's poles. 

More auroras likely to form in the coming years

According to Live Science, astronomers have seen large auroras in three different episodes on Mars. 

The Hope orbiter of the United Arab Emirates Mars Mission captured "bizarre, worm-like auroras" throughout the planet in 2022. NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) probe observed auroras in the planet’s northern hemisphere in 2014, and the European Space Agency's Mars Express mission identified auroras in the southern hemisphere in 2004.  

Auroras on the red planet may become more regular in the next few years as the Sun enters solar maximum, where its activity is expected to amplify by 2025. The Sun undergoes an 11-year cycle of activity known as the solar cycle. In solar maxima, the number of sunspots drastically increases while solar flares become more prevalent. Therefore, there are high chances of solar flares heading out towards space and interacting with the atmospheres' of the various planets in the solar system.

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