Science

NASA captures images of strong solar flares

NASA captures images of strong solar flares”

Our Sun may be heading toward a minimum in its 11-year cycle of activity, but that doesn't mean it's going completely quiescent.

The two flares occurred Wednesday morning at 5:10am and 8:02am EDT. Both were considered X-class - the strongest type of solar flare - with one of them proving to be the most powerful since 2005. It's hard to understand how much larger the sun is than the Earth.

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"Harmful radiation from a flare cannot pass through Earth's atmosphere to physically affect humans on the ground, however-when intense enough-they can disturb the atmosphere in the layer where Global Positioning System and communications signals travel", the space agency said in a statement. According to astrophysicist Karl Battams, NASA's Solar and Heliospheric Observatory is not yet sending any data related to the solar flares because of its current position in space. "A list of the most powerful solar flares recorded since 1976 ranks today's flare at number 14, tied with a similar explosion in 1990", wrote Tony Phillips, who runs spaceweather.com, on Thursday. Physicists believe the magnetic field can become twisted and looped as the Sun rotates, until finally these lines "snap".

These solar storms are the result of an accumulation of magnetic energy in some places. It's pretty notable that such a large flare came out of such a calm period. The flares were considered by some scientists to be mid-range, while others discussed them as among the most intense class of solar flares. Flares can last for minutes or hours, raising the local temperature of the Sun's surface by tens of millions of degrees. It is not yet clear if that CME will hit Earth directly.

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M-class flares may cause brief radio blackouts in polar regions and minor concern for any orbiting astronauts.

The radio blackout from these particular flares have already passed but in the coming days, people living in high latitude-regions might be able to see auroras or northern lights in the sky over the course of this week. They should be arriving within a few days.

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