NASA: A Massive solar flare was THIS close to hit the Earth; Know what it could have done
NASA, on May 3rd, tweeted that it observed a solar flare peaking at 9:25 AM EDT (6:55 PM IST) and it was caught in its Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) footage. While the space agency did not discuss any specific guidelines regarding its effects on Earth, it revealed that the solar storm missed Earth by a very small distance. Given that the solar flare captured was a one, the resultant solar storm could have led to some damage to communications infra on Earth. With the solar maximum nearing close, the intensity of solar storms have also been on the rise with radio blackouts and GPS interruptions happening every other week. The event took place on the sun's lower left side.
As reported by Space.com, the solar flare has been registered as an X1.1-class. This is the second such incident in a week coming from the Sun. Another active region of the Sun which has since turned away from Earth unleashed an X1.1-class flare on April 30. For the unaware, the solar flares classes are in the sequence of A, B, C, M, and X. The A is the tiniest, and the X is the largest. All the categories have nine subdivisions starting from the form A1 to A9 and ending at X1 to X9.
"Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation. Harmful radiation from a flare cannot pass through Earth's atmosphere to physically affect humans on the ground. However — when intense enough — they can disturb the atmosphere in the layer where GPS and communications signals travel." NASA tweeted about the event.
Massive solar flare sets off in Sun, misses the Earth by a narrow margin
According to SpaceWeather.com, the sunspot from the location of the flare has not yet been named. The source is said to be a new unnumbered sunspot emerging over the Sun's southeastern limb. Generally, auroras on the Earth are seen after a solar flare when the charged particles are released in outer space in the form of coronal mass ejection (CME) and interact with the Earth's upper atmosphere. When the Earth is in the direction of the outburst, the particles move across our planet's magnetic field lines and excite molecules higher up in the atmosphere, creating a colourful display of lights. But auroras are not the only thing these storms cause. They can also damage satellites, disrupt GPS systems, mobile connectivity and internet services as well as cause power grid failures depending on how powerful they are.
The sun activity was high through April, and it displayed multiple groups of sunspots while throwing flares in the range from moderate-sized to the X-class sized, which is the largest. The sun appears to be transitioning from the cycle while moving towards its peak of solar activity as forecasted by 2025.
NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are the American government agencies frequently monitoring the sun for its solar weather to determine its effects on Earth and other places within the solar system. The Parker Solar Probe, a sun closeup mission by NASA, is trying to understand more about the superheated outer atmosphere of the sun, the corona.