Scientists have revealed footage of the incredible moment bursts of plasma erupted from the sun earlier this month.
After the flares- which are larger than the size of Earth – the magnetic field lines appeared as beautiful well-defined coils.
Solar flares are the most energetic events in our solar system and can have a major impact on Earth.
With these high-detail observations, researchers can investigate the conditions in which these events form which could help scientists create more accurate ways to predict them in the future.
The footage was captured by Nasa’s Solar Dynamics Observatory which was launched in 2010 with the aim of observing the sun.
The active region erupted twice in 18 hours on 2 March, according to Nasa.
‘After each burst, one can see the magnetic fields lines, which appear as bright coils, spiralling around the region’, the space agency said.
They are reorganising the disrupted magnetic field, experts say.
‘The quick second when the screen goes black was caused by the Earth passing between the spacecraft and the sun’.
Scientists have revealed the incredible moment bursts of radiation erupted from the sun earlier this month (pictured)
With these observations, researchers can investigate the conditions in which these events form which could help scientists create more accurate ways to predict them in the future
After the flares- which were several times the size of Earth – the magnetic field lines appeared as well-defined bright coils
The footage was captured by Nasa’s Solar Dynamics Observatory which was launched in 2010 with the aim of observing the sun. The active region erupted twice in 18 hours on 2 March, according to Nasa
In September, scientists captured a burst of radiation that was the largest ever seen for 12 years.
Using the Swedish Solar Telescope in La Palma, the researchers were able to gather ‘unheard of’ views of the powerful event in the opening moments of its life.
The flare was one of three events known as X-category flares that took place over the course of 48 hours, with each reaching energies comparable to one billion hydrogen bombs.
‘It’s very unusual to observe the opening minutes of a flare’s life,’ said Dr Chris Nelson from the Solar Physics and Space Plasma Research Centre at the time.
‘We can only observe about 1/250th of the solar surface at any one time using the Swedish Solar Telescope, so to be in the right place at the right time requires a lot of luck.
‘To observe the rise phases of three X-classes over two days is just unheard of.’
According to the team, an X-class flare can form and reach its peak intensity in roughly five minutes, making it difficult to catch the opening moments when these events emerge.
But in this case, the researchers were able to do so for three.
One of these flares was the largest seen in over 12 years, and the 8th largest in modern records, which began in 1996.
‘Solar flares are the most energetic events in our solar system and can have a major impact on earth,’ said Professor Mihalis Mathioudakis, who led the project at Queen’s University Belfast.
‘The dedication and perseverance of our early career scientists who planned and executed these observations led to the capture of this unique event and have helped to advance our knowledge in this area.’
WHAT ARE SOLAR STORMS AND ARE THEY DANGEROUS?
Solar storms, or solar activity, can be divided into four main components that can have impacts on Earth:
- Solar flares: A large explosion in the sun’s atmosphere. These flares are made of photons that travel out directly from the flare site. Solar flares impact Earth only when they occur on the side of the sun facing Earth.
- Coronal Mass Ejections (CME’s): Large clouds of plasma and magnetic field that erupt from the sun. These clouds can erupt in any direction, and then continue on in that direction, plowing through solar wind. These clouds only cause impacts to Earth when they’re aimed at Earth.
- High-speed solar wind streams: These come from coronal holes on the sun, which form anywhere on the sun and usually only when they are closer to the solar equator do the winds impact Earth.
- Solar energetic particles: High-energy charged particles thought to be released primarily by shocks formed at the front of coronal mass ejections and solar flares. When a CME cloud plows through solar wind, solar energetic particles can be produced and because they are charged, they follow the magnetic field lines between the Sun and Earth. Only charged particles that follow magnetic field lines that intersect Earth will have an impact.
While these may seem dangerous, astronauts are not in immediate danger of these phenomena because of the relatively low orbit of manned missions.
However, they do have to be concerned about cumulative exposure during space walks.
This photo shows the sun’s coronal holes in an x-ray image. The outer solar atmosphere, the corona, is structured by strong magnetic fields, which when closed can cause the atmosphere to suddenly and violently release bubbles or tongues of gas and magnetic fields called coronal mass ejections
The damage caused by solar storms
Solar flares can damage satellites and have an enormous financial cost.
The charged particles can also threaten airlines by disturbing Earth’s magnetic field.
Very large flares can even create currents within electricity grids and knock out energy supplies.
When Coronal Mass Ejections strike Earth they cause geomagnetic storms and enhanced aurora.
They can disrupt radio waves, GPS coordinates and overload electrical systems.
A large influx of energy could flow into high voltage power grids and permanently damage transformers.
This could shut off businesses and homes around the world.
Source: NASA – Solar Storm and Space Weather