Solar flare July 2012 is making headlines once again. NASA reports suggest that aurora borealis or northern lights to follow the storm
NASA researchers have captured pictures of a strong solar flare from a massive sunspot known as AR1520. The solar storm, which reportedly took place on Thursday, has burst a large flare on the Sun. However, the flare wouldn’t make any impact on Earth, NASA sources stated. Earlier, it was feared that the solar storm would make some impact on Earth early Saturday. Later, it was confirmed by the Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) that the flare would make only a minimal impact. It is hoped that the solar storm would make less impact on the communication systems, power grids and radio networks.
Solar scientists across the world are wowed to see the snaps of the solar storm, which is a part of the Sun’s usual 11-year cycle. As per scientists, the cycle is expected to peak next year. As reported by the Associated Press, the flare will result in vivid auroras in northern United States and southern parts of Canada. SWPC has registered the sun storm as an X1.4-class solar flare that is more intense than the X1.1 flare, which took place early this month from another huge sunspot named AR1515. It makes the solar flare the strongest one ever.
As per specialists, the AR1520 sunspot region could be up to 186,411 miles long at its high point. Well, it is almost 50 percent bigger than the sun flare from AR1515, says Alex Young, solar astrophysicist of NASA. Anyway, the energy exploded outward the Sun with the flare has not exceeded a limit that could harm the Earth and its atmosphere. Usually, a solar flare exposes huge amount of energy outward with a force exceeding that of millions of hydrogen bombs, says Space.com.
What is a solar flare?
Simply put, solar flare is an explosion in the high magnetic fields in the sunspot-generating active regions on the Sun. A huge amount of energy will bulge out of the Sun when the solar flare takes place. Temperature in the external layer of the Sun, called the corona, will fall around a few million kelvins. As the flare comes across the corona, as per researchers, it heats up to anywhere from 10 to 20 million K and it may reach as high as a hundred million.
Solar storms happen in an 11-year cycle. And several flares may occur in a day with an average lifetime of just 10 minutes, specialists say. “Flares tend to follow the same 11-year cycle. At the peak of the cycle, several flares may occur each day, with an average lifetime of only 10 minutes,” says Space.com.
Various solar flares
The biggest X-class flares may cause huge impact on Earth. As per researchers, such flares may result in long-lasting radiation storms in the top atmosphere. Of course, they will be powerful enough to block the functioning of communication systems and radio signals. Meanwhile, medium-size M-class solar flares may cause only brief radio blackouts in the polar regions of the Earth and mild radiation storms. C-class minor solar flares do have few obvious consequences, however.
Despite the size and class of solar flares, it is a tough task to detect the flares, specialists say. They are never visible optically. “The bright emission of the surrounding photosphere, where the sun’s light originates, tends to overshadow even these explosive phenomena,” says Space.com. However, in the aftermath of solar flares, radio signals may be lost on Earth. Only space-based telescopes can detect flares since X-rays and gamma rays fail to go through the atmosphere hit with solar flares.