Space has been one of the most curious subjects of humanity. From time to time, many events have occurred that surprised humans. Among all these, Sun sits at the core of space research. A few days ago, humankind observed the strongest solar flares in the last three years. Satellites monitoring the solar object detected this incident.
What are Solar Flares?
The surface of the Sun contains electric-charged gases. These gases generate magnetic fields. Solar flares are an explosion of energy caused due to tangling, crossing, or realignment of magnetic field lines near sunspots. Because of this, the brightness increases in the Sun, close to sunspots. One of the most critical processes observed during solar flares is coronal mass ejection. During the events like solar flares, there is a release of 10^20 Joules of energy. It affects all the layers of the solar atmosphere, i.e., corona, chromosphere, and photosphere. They occur due to magnetic reconnection when charged particles like electrons get accelerated and interact with the plasma medium. Hence, there is a sudden release of massive energy. But scientists have no clue about the transformation of this magnetic energy to kinetic energy.
Are Solar Flares harmful?
Solar flares influence the weather in the vicinity of our planet. They create solar winds or stellar winds that affect the Earth’s magnetosphere (region of space around a space object in which charged particles are affected by that object’s magnetic field). Hence, one can observe events like aurora borealis and aurora australis. During a solar flare formation, a vast generation of radiation impacts the spacecraft and astronauts. Even the emission of X-rays and UV rays in solar flares affects the Earth’s ionosphere and disrupts long-range communication and radio frequencies. So, a solar flare can hinder radars and other devices operating or using those frequencies.
Satellites that are tracking Sun
MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN)
STEREO (Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory)
ACE (Advanced Composition Explorer)
SOHO ( Solar and Heliospheric Observatory)
SDO (Solar Dynamics Observatory)
TRACE (Transition Region and Coronal Explorer)
Though MAVEN is for monitoring the Martian atmosphere, it also tracks the loss of atmospheric gases and measures solar Extreme Ultraviolet (EUV) input.
What is the news on the recent solar flare incident?
The news came out when SpaceWeatherLive shared a tweet on the recent solar flare incident. The images came from SOHO ( Solar and Heliospheric Observatory) that monitors coronal mass ejection from the Earth’s perspective. A sunspot AR2785 erupted during the late hours of November 23, 2020. Due to its magnitude of energy, scientists claimed it as a C4 class solar flares. The event prompted a temporary shutdown of the radio stations situated in eastern Australia and New Zealand. HAM radio operators and mariners observed the extinguishment of frequencies below 20 MHz with the unusual transmission of signals. The ionization that happened in the atmosphere led to the generation of such erratic signal transmission.
Upcoming Solar Flares
At present, it is solar cycle 25 that is going on. A solar cycle is an eleven years period when the magnetic field of the Sun flips itself. Hence, it affects sunspots by switching the Sun’s magnetic fields. When a solar cycle starts, the Sun has the least sunspots, whereas, when the cycle gets mature, the Sun has the most sunspots. Since it is the beginning of the solar cycle, scientists believe that there will be a surge in sunspots during mid-2025, and therefore, more solar flares will occur. So, observing and forecasting sunspots and, accordingly, solar flares can let us protect the digital communication and radio communication systems. It will also help design better spacesuits for the astronauts going for space expeditions to protect them from space radiations.
The amount of energy released during a solar flare is immense. Solar flares’ capability to disrupt Earth’s communication systems can put humanity to a halt for a while. The ever-changing solar cycle will always produce more solar flares in the future. It becomes essential for scientists to build more robust satellites to forecast solar events before their actual incidence.
Daisy Martin is a qualified IT engineer by education. After working in the IT sector for a decade, she began writing about it two years ago. She loves to write about emerging technology like mcafee.com/activate or