Giant Solar Plasma Wave Smashes Into Mercury, Triggering Geomagnetic Storms

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On Tuesday (April 12), a massive plasma wave ejected from the sun slammed onto Mercury, potentially setting off a coronal mass ejection and removing debris from the planet’s crust.

The plasma wave originated from a hotspot, a region on the sun’s surface where strong magnetic fields, caused by the movement of electric currents, get twisted up before unexpectedly breaking. As a result of the snapping mechanism, solar flares or plasma waves are produced, releasing their stored energy (CMEs).

Mercury, on the other hand, posseses a weak magnetic field. As a result of this and its closeness to our star’s material discharges, it has long since been devoid of a stable atmospheric layer. Because of the continual loss of remaining Mercury atoms, a comet-like trail of expelled material may be seen trailing behind Mercury.

Now that we know Mercury’s magnetic field is powerful enough to cause geomagnetic disturbances, scientists are confident in their findings. A recent study presented in Nature Communications as well as Science China Technological Sciences shows that now the magnetic field is, in fact, powerful enough. Researchers found that Mercury’s magnetic flux is connected by an orbital ring flow, a doughnut-like shaped river of energetic particles. This circle flux is capable of causing geomagnetic storms, according to the second publication.

As per the Space Weather Prediction Center of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, solar activities have been growing quicker than previous government projections indicated. Science can’t accurately forecast how long and strong the sun will go through its 11-year cycle of activities highs & lows since the process that causes it is still a mystery.

These eruptions can have a variety of impacts on the earth. There are the most immediately noticeable effects, such as geomagnetic storms and auroras. Even when there is not an eruption powerful enough to cause a geomagnetic storm, solar flares can still have a measurable effect on our ionosphere.

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