Ahead of the Fourth of July celebrations, on July 03rd, the Sun erupted with a powerful X1-class solar flare. According to the U.S. Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) that tracks the Sun’s weather, the flare occurred at 10:29 AM EDT from a new sunspot called AR2838 and is the largest solar flare since 2017.
According to Spaceweather.com, the sunspot that caused the flare has now rotated around to the far side of the Sun.
A solar flare is a sudden flash of increase in the Sun’s brightness, usually near a sunspot. Powerful flares are usually accompanied by Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) – a significant release of plasma and accompanying magnetic field from the solar corona.
Flares are classified according to the peak flux in watts per square meter of X-rays, with letters A, B, C, M, or X. An X3 is three times as powerful as X1, and an X2 is four times more powerful than an M5 flare.
Powerful X class flares aimed towards Earth can pose a threat to astronauts and satellites in orbit. They can also disrupt our power grids. The July 03rd event caused a brief radio blackout on Earth, according to the SWPC officials in an update. A more moderate M class flare causes Auroras – a dazzling natural display of lights seen in Earth’s high altitude and polar regions.
Sun’s weather follows an 11-year solar cycle or solar magnetic activity cycle, measured in terms of the number of sunspots observed on the Sun’s surface. The current cycle started in 2020 and is called solar cycle 25.