Solar flares have been reported frequently in recent months due to the sun entering its active period. But one recent solar flare captured the attention of astronauts and scientists because of its long duration.
In the early hours of Saturday, the sun released a long-lasting solar flare which triggered an intense sun eruption aimed directly at Earth.
Before we turn this into another “end of the world” rumor, though, scientists say it was minor and did not pose any threat to our planet.
Despite it being classified as “minor,” it lasted quite awhile. It created a wave of charged particles and hurled them at Earth at speeds of 1.8 million miles per hour.
Photos of it were captured by the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory.
Called Coronal mass ejections, the phenomenon is quite common and produces particles which reach Earth in one to three days. They cause geomagnetic storms which interact with Earth’s magnetic field. Mostly, the storms only cause an intense show of northern and southern lights over the poles. That’s what scientists are expecting this solar flare to produce.
“In the past, CMEs at this strength have had little effect,” NASA said. “They may cause auroras near the poles but are unlikely to disrupt electrical systems on Earth or interfere with GPS or satellite-based communications systems.”
Even astronauts living on the International Space Station observed the flare, as one tweeted about it, though it poses no threat to them.
“We live right next to a star,” Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield wrote. “Today it ejected a huge blob at 500 mi/sec. But not to worry - should be good aurorae.”
Currently, the sun’s active phase is called Solar Cycle 24. This year it will reach its peak, so expect plenty more news stories about solar flares and an increase in aurora.
The weather on the sun is observed by SOHO spacecraft and other observatories, like NASA’s twin Stereo spacecraft and the Solar Dynamics Observatory.