The sun has produced the first major flare of the current solar cycle. Near 10:29 a.m., a solar flare occurred at sunspot AR2838. According to the US Space Weather Prediction Center, it will be 3 p.m. ET on July 3.
The Sun emitted a significant solar flare on July 3, peaking at 10:29am ET. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory captured an image of the event, which was classified as X1.5. https://t.co/YQVtSqomEc pic.twitter.com/ivjSCPZPW9
— NASA Sun & Space (@NASASun) July 4, 2021
The strongest batch of solar flares
Solar flare intensities are measured on a scale in the center, with A-class flares being the lowest and X-class flares being the greatest. The flare on July 3 was rated as an X1, the most powerful category of solar flares.
Solar flares, according to Bill Murtagh, program coordinator at the US SWPC, are massive eruptions of radiation on the sun’s surface.
Murtagh explained, “We’re talking about the energy equivalent of millions of 100-megaton hydrogen bombs exploding at the same time.” The sun goes through an 11-year solar cycle during which the level of flare activity varies.
The solar minimum, which began in December 2019, is a period when the sun is still active but quieter and has fewer sunspots.
A complete eclipse
The activity will gradually increase until it reaches a solar maximum in July 2025, when there will be a large number of sunspots. In April 2024, a total solar eclipse will pass across North America, giving scientists the chance to observe the sun’s activity, such as solar eruptions and sunspots.
“We hope that an eclipse near the solar maximum will show us not only an awe-inspiring corona but also some large, interesting sunspots on the face of the Sun to help us learn about living inside the atmosphere of an active star and the space weather it creates,” said Valentin Martinez Pillet, director of the National Solar Observatory in Boulder, Colorado, in a statement.
Become a subscriber to CNN’s Wonder Theory science newsletter. Discover the wonders of the cosmos with breaking news on amazing discoveries, scientific breakthroughs, and more.
Murtagh estimates that around 150 flares of the magnitude of the July 3 flare occur in a typical solar cycle. However, he noted that there could be around 1,500 lesser flares in the same time frame.
The area of the solar flare vanished from Earth’s perspective in the days following the flare as the sun moved, according to Murtagh.
The site of the flare will be visible again in two weeks, but the US SWPC will continue to watch eruptions on the other side of the sun throughout that period, he said.
He claims that while the solar flare is facing away from Earth, the enhanced energy outputs have no effect on our world.
“We want to see if it returns two weeks later since these sunspot groups can last for weeks or even months,” Murtagh added.
What is a solar flare?
A solar flare is a brightening of the Sun that occurs suddenly near its surface and in close proximity to a group of sunspots. A coronal mass ejection is frequently, but not always, associated with powerful flares. In the total sun irradiation, even the most strong flares are scarcely visible (the “solar constant”)
Solar flares have a power-law spectrum of magnitudes; a clear detectable event requires an energy release of approximately 1020 joules, whereas a big event can emit up to 1025 joules. Although they were first discovered in the visible electromagnetic spectrum, particularly in the hydrogen H emission line, they can now be identified in anything from radio waves to gamma rays.