NASA captures the violent flash of a mini solar flare

The sun emitted a mid-level solar flare on January 20, 2022, peaking at 1:01 a.m. EST. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, which constantly monitors the sun, captured an image of the event.


On Thursday, our sun released its stored energy in the form of a small magnetic bomb. It’s called a solar flare, and NASA filmed it all.

Solar flares, which are sudden explosions on the surface of the sun caused by strong magnetic forces, are of concern to astronomers because these events can impact power grids on Earth, causing regional outages. They may also interfere with radio communications.

“This event, in particular, disrupted radio communications over the Indian and Pacific Oceans – so its most significant impact was probably a disruption to maritime communications,” said program scientist and space weather expert Jesse Woodroffe. at NASA.

Even more shockingly, if astronauts are in the line of fire of flares, such detonations can pose a great threat to the safety of travelers and spacecraft. The good news, however, is that NASA classified the recent eruption as an M5.5 mid-level eruption, which corresponds to both moderate severity and a threat of radio blackout for the side of the planet. faced with the bursting.

“It’s not exceptionally strong in the grand scheme of things,” Woodroffe said, “but it can still have significant effects depending on what part of the Earth is being sunlit at the time of the eruption.”

For now, we can just sit back and admire the dramatic image captured by the agency in “extreme ultraviolet light,” colorized in an absolutely mesmerizing teal blue.

About 300 M-class flares occur in each solar cycle, and they’re most likely to occur near solar maximum, a point we routinely approach, according to Woodroffe. “Right now, it’s shaping up to be a much more active and interesting solar cycle than the last. This means we could be in store for solar activity the likes of which we haven’t seen in almost 20 years.”

You can see the solar flare flash on the right side.


What causes a solar flare?

Instead of a glowing orb, think of the sun as a giant, blazing, spherical ocean. This ocean is so ridiculously hot, at 5,778 Kelvin (9940.73 Fahrenheit), that the star’s potential atoms are completely destroyed in a gaseous mixture of ions and electrons called plasma.

These particles, with varying positive and negative charges, work together to form the magnetic field lines of the sun, thus deciding how the boiling ocean moves. Think of it as some sort of immensely strong magnetic soup – more accurately, imagine chicken noodle soup. The noodles are the magnetic fields of the sun.

However, just as stirring your soup in search of a small carrot can tangle your noodles, these charged magnetic lines can tangle, most often near sunspots. Eventually, when regions of spaghetti-shaped magnetic fields form complex knots and push and pull each other, they experience an energy overload.

This forces them to explode into space, revealing a ring of fire around the side of our huge star, called a solar flare.


The sun sent a huge solar flare in August 2012

AIA/SDO/Goddard Space Flight Center/NASA

“There is also potential for clustering of solar flares, meaning that the appearance of one flare could portend the appearance of more and potentially stronger flares,” Woodroffe said. “So monitoring events like this is important because it could be a precursor to something more serious.”

And sometimes the fiery loop stretches until it becomes taut enough to break away, resulting in a coronal mass ejection. “A coronal mass ejection is, in essence, a bit of sunlight that is blown out and sent out into space toward Earth,” Woodroffe said.

Once it breaks off, the ejected part heads straight for our planet, picking up space particles along the way and causing what is called a solar storm. Fortunately, Earth’s atmosphere shields us from the weight of charged particles, with only relatively few grips in our planet’s shield. When it does, however, we look at these trapped, stinging particles in awe.

They appear to us like the aurora borealis.

“I don’t know if there was a coronal mass ejection associated with this eruption, but we expect the possible arrival of a coronal mass ejection associated with an eruption that occurred on January 18” , Woodroffe said. “So even if it’s not because of this eruption, we could very well see some beautiful Northern Lights this weekend.”


ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet captured an amazing view of an aurora during a full moon in September 2021.

Thomas Pesquet/ESA

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