Many solar flares have affected Earth this year. But do you know what solar flares are and what causes them? Read to find out.
The earth is being bombarded with rays of the Sun this year when the Sun is at the cusp of its 11-year solar cycle. This has resulted in more frequent solar eruptions resulting in more sunlight being sent towards the Earth. Solar flares can reach temperatures of up to 100 million degrees Kelvin and have the potential to cause grid failures, power outages and GPS trouble.
What are Solar flares?
Based on NASA, Solar rays are photons of light emitted from the Sun from the site of the flare. They are rated based on their intensity with the highest intensity being X-rated solar rays. Solar flares occur due to Solar Mass Emission (CME) on the Sun’s surface sending charged photon particles. electricity moves towards the Earth.
A single solar flare can hold 2.5 million nuclear bombs. “There are typically three stages to a solar flare,” says NASA. The first is the precursor stage, where the trigger releases magnetic energy. Soft X-ray emission was detected during this period. In the second or impulse phase, protons and electrons are accelerated to energies in excess of 1 MeV. During the impulsive phase, radio waves, hard X-rays, and gamma rays are emitted. The gradual formation and decay of soft X-rays can be detected in the third decay stage. The duration of these periods can be as short as a few seconds or as long as an hour.”
Can solar flares cause damage?
When a ray of sunlight hits the Earth, it interacts with the Earth’s magnetic field and causes the formation of geomagnetic storms. When one solar flame touches the Earth, radio communications and power grids are affected when it hits the Earth’s magnetic field. It can cause radio loss for several hours or even days.
A strong solar flare can also cause changes in the migration patterns of birds, whales and even bees. Since birds rely on Earth’s magnetic field to navigate, their migration patterns will be affected when the 11-year solar cycle ends, leading to the transition of the North and South poles.
Geomagnetic storms, which are formed by the action of solar flares, can bring changing curtains of green, blue, and pink light that illuminate the night sky at the North and South poles. They are called the Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis in the Arctic and the Southern Lights or Aurora Australis in the Antarctic.
The frequency of solar flares will increase in the coming years as Sun reaches the peak of the solar cycle, probably around 2025.