It looks like a bright flash of light in the reflection of a car window.
But a stunning new image from NASA actually shows a massive solar flare: a powerful explosion in the sun’s atmosphere.
The dramatic event occurred at 22:34 GMT (17:34 EST) on Thursday and was captured by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, which constantly observes the sun.
Experts say the resulting radiation aimed at Earth could disrupt power grids and navigation signals, or pose risks to spacecraft and astronauts, although it could also cause beautiful auroras in the sky.
It is the most powerful solar flare in seven years, since a burst in September 2017 caused radio blackouts for hours.
NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory captured this image of a solar flare (as seen in the bright flash at top left) on February 22, 2024. The image shows a subset of extreme ultraviolet light that highlights material extremely hot in the flares and it is colored. in bronze
As NASA explains, solar flares are “powerful bursts” of high-energy radiation from the sun’s surface that can cause disturbances on Earth.
“Solar flares and flares can affect radio communications, electrical grids, navigation signals and pose risks to spacecraft and astronauts,” the agency states.
Typically, experts describe the strength of solar flares by giving them a letter (A, B, C, M, and X) followed by a number (1 through 9).
This new flare is classified as an X flare, meaning it is the largest type that can cause worldwide radio blackouts and long-lasting radiation storms in the upper atmosphere.
This is X6.3, not as large as the burst of massive solar flares in September 2017, which included an X9.3 and an X8.2.
TO study in Space Weather magazine He later concluded that the 2017 flares damaged radio communications during hurricane response efforts in the Caribbean.
This week’s X6.3 solar flare is also the largest of three that have occurred since Wednesday, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
The X6.3 solar flare is also the largest of the three that have occurred since Wednesday, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory captured these images of a solar flare, as seen in the bright flashes in the upper left area of the Sun, on February 21 and 22. The images show a subset of extreme ultraviolet light that highlights the extremely hot material in the flares. and it is colored in teal
The other two were X1.8 and X1.7, so while they were also X-class flares, they were not as powerful.
It is unclear what damage, if any, they have caused; MailOnline has contacted NASA for more information.
According to the Royal Museums Greenwich, the particles typically take two days after the flare is seen on the Sun to reach Earth.
Upon arrival, these particles can give rise to an aurora, a spectacular flash of vibrantly colored lights in the sky visible near the Earth’s poles.
The Met Office hopes the aurora can be seen on Sunday in the far north of Scotland and similar geomagnetic latitudes “under favorable viewing conditions”, meaning no clouds or light pollution.
Solar flares are different from coronal mass ejections (CMEs), which eject solar material in the form of huge bubbles of charged particles (plasma) entangled with magnetic field lines.
But both may be responsible for the aurora, also known as the aurora borealis or ‘aurora borealis’ in the northern hemisphere and the aurora australis or ‘aurora australis’ in the southern hemisphere.
Sunday: An animation from the Met Office shows the auroral oval, the ring-shaped range of auroral activity that determines the extent of the northern lights and where it will be most visible.
The Northern Lights seen over St Leonard’s Head in St Andrews, Scotland, on February 27, 2023
A solar flare is a tremendous explosion on the Sun that occurs when energy stored in “twisted” magnetic fields is suddenly released (file photo)
NOAA also said that the X6.3 solar flare is the largest to take place so far during the current solar cycle.
The solar cycle is the cycle that the sun’s magnetic field goes through approximately every 11 years, before completely reversing and the sun’s north and south poles change places.
The current solar cycle, number 25, began in 2019 and is expected to continue until approximately 2030.
According to NASA, as the sun’s magnetic fields change, the amount of activity on the surface of our star also changes.
Although the otherwise violent surface of the sun takes on a calmer, almost idyllic appearance during solar minimum, this false calm can also cause disturbances on the sun known as solar storms.
Solar storms during this solar minimum still occur due to the occurrence of solar flares – explosions on the sun when energy stored in “twisted” magnetic fields is released.
Solar minimum also occurs when the sun has the fewest ‘sunspots’ – colder parts of the sun’s surface caused by massive changes in its magnetic field.
But over time, solar activity and the number of sunspots increase as it approaches solar maximum.