The flare emanated from the sunspot AR3184 in the sun’s south-east quadrant, in the early hours of this morning.
While the sunspot is currently facing away from Earth, it is slowly rotating and will face our planet’s direction by the end of the week.
The solar flare that exploded from AR3184 was so strong that it caused an X 1.9-class solar storm.
The storm was strong enough to cause a radio blackout here on Earth, temporarily disrupting radio coverage in areas across Central America, South America and the Pacific Ocean.
Being classified as an “X-class” flare places the recent flare in the most serious category of solar storms.
While this solar storm and associated flare was a more powerful one than ordinary, there are no concerns about significant danger to Earth.
“None of the debris plumes will hit Earth; the sunspot is not facing our planet. It will turn in our direction later this week,” said astronomer Tony Phillips.
Solar flares are huge bursts of radiation that erupt from the sun, particularly from areas known as sunspots.
Sunspots and solar flares increase and decrease in frequency and strength as the sun moves through its 11-year solar cycle.
Sunspots — which are areas on the sun that appear darker — emerge frequently during its cycle and can erupt and send explosions of energy towards Earth, such as solar winds (which are less energetic than flares).
Researchers from Swinburne University say that sunspots are a mere 3,000 degrees, compared to the average 6,000 degrees surface temperature of the sun.
Solar flares are grouped into categories, with the weakest being identified as A, B or C-class storms and flares. More powerful flares are known as M-class flares and can send charged particles at Earth that supercharge the dazzling northern and southern lights near the poles of the Earth.
The most powerful, and most dangerous, class of flares and storms are X-class flares. These flares can have seriously damaging consequences if they hit the Earth directly.
According to a statement released by NASA, X-class flares “can impact radio communications, electric power grids, navigation signals, and pose risks to spacecraft and astronauts”.
The sun is currently in a phase of its solar cycle, denoted as Solar Cycle 25, which is set to peak in strength in 2025.
Liam McAneny is a journalist who has written and edited for his University International Relations journal. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts (International Relations) and Bachelor of Laws from the University of Wollongong in 2021. He joined Momentum Media in 2022 and currently writes for SpaceConnect and Australian Aviation. Liam has a keen interest in geopolitics and international relations as well as astronomy.
Send Liam an email at: [email protected]
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