The Sun Just Released The Biggest Solar Flare In 12 Years

Posted: Sep 9 2017, 1:18am CDT | by , Updated: Sep 9 2017, 1:33am CDT, in News | Latest Science News

 

The Sun Just Released the Biggest Solar Flare in 12 Years
NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory captured this image of a significant solar flare as seen in the bright flash on the lower right on Sept. 6, 2017. Credit: NAS
 

The same active region on Sun continues to emit solar flares

Our sun is acting quite weirdly these days, but no one knows why. 

Early Wednesday morning, sun emitted two strong solar flares, one of them was the biggest since at least 2005. The first solar flare was seen at 5:10 a.m. EDT while the second, larger flare, peaked at 8:02 a.m. EDT. The latter was so intense that it caused radio blackouts across the daytime Earth for about an hour. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, which observes the sun constantly, also imaged the both events. 

“The first flare is classified as an X2.2 flare and the second is an X9.3 flare. X-class denotes the most intense flares, while the number provides more information about its strength. An X2 is twice as intense as an X1, an X3 is three times as intense, etc,” said NASA statement.

“The X9.3 flare was the largest flare so far in the current solar cycle, the approximately 11-year-cycle during which the sun’s activity waxes and wanes. The current solar cycle began in December 2008, and is now decreasing in intensity and heading toward solar minimum.”

What’s puzzling the researchers is despite heading toward solar minimum or period of low solar activity, sun is releasing flares with such intensity. 

Solar flares are defined as powerful bursts of radiation from sun’s surface. A solar flare occurs when magnetic field energy builds up and is suddenly released. These solar flares are the most powerful explosions in the solar system, which are equivalent to a hundred million hydrogen bombs. As seen from the observatory, solar flares appear extremely bright areas on sun and they can last from minutes to several hours. 

Though these flares cannot enter the Earth atmosphere and physically harm humans, they can certainly trigger solar storms and disrupt GPS and communication systems.  

Both the intense flares came from came from Sun’s active region called AR 2673, which continues to unleash solar flares even today. Six sizable flares from the same active region have been released since a mid-level solar flare on Sep. 4, 2017. The last one occurred on September 8 while many more are expected to observe in coming days. 

 

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