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Tags Current Affairs

Large Sun flare observed

Date: 03 June 2020 Tags: Space

Issue

The Sun has fired off its strongest flare since October 2017, an eruption spotted by NASA's sun-watching Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO).

 

Background

Solar flares are bursts of radiation that originate from sunspots, temporary dark and relatively cool patches on the solar surface that boast very strong magnetic fields. 

 

Details

  • Scientists classify strong flares into three categories: C, M and X. Each class is 10 times more powerful than the one beneath it; M flares are 10 times stronger than C flares, but 10 times weaker than X-class events.

  • This M-class flare did reportedly cause a small radio blackout, and was followed b a smaller C-class flare approximately three hours later. Over the past 48 hours, it has also been recorded that smaller B-class solar flares have been seen on the Sun too.

  • The outburst could be a sign that the sun is ramping up to a more active phase of its 11-year activity cycle.

  • The Sun has a natural 11-year cycle, where its activity increases and decreases. Strong activity from the Sun can send eruptions of energy into space with effects seen on Earth, including the aurora or interfere with radio communications and – in extreme cases – affect energy grids.

  • Scientists need to know when these solar cycles are occurring in order to protect the planet’s radio communications, as well as ensuring the safety of astronauts and satellites outside of the Earth’s atmosphere, because of the damage that they can have on electronics.

  • Scientists peg the start of new cycles at "solar minimum," the time when the sun sports the fewest sunspots and the least activity. 

  • However, it takes at least six months of solar observations and sunspot-counting after a minimum to know when it's occurred.

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