Planet Talk

New Year’s Eve Solar Flare

On New Year’s Eve, a powerful burst of energy created the largest solar flare that has been detected since 2017.

A solar flare is an intense, localized burst of electromagnetic radiation coming from the release of magnetic energy associated with sunspots. Solar flares can last from mere minutes to hours, depending on their intensity. NASA classifies these occurrences based on strength, with B-class being the smallest and X-class being the largest. The solar flare detected on New Year’s Eve was X-class, which typically has the power to disrupt radio communications, electric power grids, and navigation signals. In extreme cases, X-class solar flares can even pose risks to spacecraft and astronauts.

Today, Earth will be struck by a coronal mass ejection from this New Year’s Eve solar flare. A coronal mass ejection, or CME, is an event in which a large cloud of energetic and highly magnetized plasma erupts from a solar corona. This space eruption causes disturbances on Earth.

As quoted by an article written by Robert Lea,

Though this massive ejection of plasma will only graze the magnetic bubble surrounding our planet Tuesday (Jan. 2), the magnetosphere, it could trigger a geomagnetic storm that could affect communications and power infrastructure. 

This CME component could trigger a minor storm with the capability to cause weak fluctuations in power grids and minorly impact satellite operations. G1 geomagnetic storms can even give rise to striking auroras, usually seen at higher latitudes!

The source of the flare was an active region of the sun designated NOAA 3536, that corresponds with a group of sunspots called NOAA 3514.


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