NASA can now predict solar flares!

Amazingly, solar flares can now be predicted. NASA explains how.

| Updated on: Mar 05 2023, 20:23 IST
Top NASA Astronomy Pictures of the Week: Crescent Moon, Flaming Nebula, Venus to Jupiter
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1/5 Venus-Jupiter Conjunction (Feb 27) - features the view of Venus and Jupiter, but with an unusual ray of light extending from the horizon. It is known as Zodiacal light, a band of dust reflecting sunlight from the inner Solar System which becomes noticeable during certain periods when observed after sunset or before sunrise. (NASA/Ruslan Merzlyakov)
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2/5 Crescent Moon and the Temple of Poseidon (Feb 28) - It is a stunning snapshot of the thin crescent Moon with the ancient Greek Temple of Poseidon at the forefront in Greece. According to NASA, the moonlight we see on Earth is sunlight reflected off the Moon's grayish-white surface. (NASA/Elias Chasiotis)
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3/5 Flaming Nebula, Tadpole Nebula and Comet ZTF (March 1) - Flaming Star Nebula and the Tadpole Nebula can be seen crossing paths with the Comet ZTF. IC405, otherwise known as the Flaming Star Nebula, lies about 1,500 light-years away toward the constellation of Auriga and spans about 5 light-years across.  (NASA/Thomas Roell)
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4/5 Spiral Galaxies NGC 3169 and NGC 3166 (March 2) - It is a stellar snapshot of Spiral Galaxy NGC 3169 and its neighbour NGC 3166. NGC 3169 is located almost 70 million light-years away in the constellation of Sextans (the Sextant). According to NASA, it is part of the Leo I Group of galaxies which is part of a larger galactic congregation known as the Virgo Supercluster.  (NASA/Mike Selby/Mark Hanson)
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5/5 Supernova Remnant RCW 86 (March 3) - After the supernova explosion, its remnants are left behind, which are known as Supernova Remnants (SNR). NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day is an extremely rare and historical snapshot of Supernova Remnant RCW 86 which spans around 100 light-years and is located nearly 8000 light-years away.  (NASA/CTIO/NOIRLab/DOE/NSF/AURA)
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NASA shows how solar flares can be predicted. (NASA/SDO)

Solar flares can be very dangerous for the power grid, satellites, even mobile phones. How dangerous a flare can be depends on how powerful it is. If a warning is received by NASA and other space agencies on time, the impact on Earth and humanity can be lessened. Now, NASA has got a solution for the same. Yes, NASA has said that it can predict Solar Flares. Scientists can now predict when and where the Sun's next flare might explode. The crucial role is that of Sun "Flashes".

Notably, Solar flares are powerful bursts of energy. As per NASA, solar flares are our solar system's largest explosive events and are seen as bright areas on the sun and they can last from minutes to hours. Flares and solar eruptions can impact radio communications, electric power grids, navigation signals, and pose risks to spacecraft and astronauts even.

"Using data from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, researchers from NorthWest Research Associates, or NWRA, identified small signals in the upper layers of the solar atmosphere, the corona, that can help identify which regions on the Sun are more likely to produce solar flares – energetic bursts of light and particles released from the Sun," NASA said.

They found that above the regions about to flare, the corona produced small-scale flashes – like small sparklers before the big fireworks. This information could eventually help improve predictions of flares and space weather storms – the disrupted conditions in space caused by the Sun's activity.

Scientists have previously studied how activity in lower layers of the Sun's atmosphere – such as the photosphere and chromosphere – can indicate impending flare activity in active regions, which are often marked by groups of sunspots, or strong magnetic regions on the surface of the Sun that are darker and cooler compared to their surroundings.

For their research, the scientists used a newly created image database of the Sun's active regions captured by SDO. The publicly available resource, described in a companion paper also in The Astrophysical Journal, combines over eight years of images taken of active regions in ultraviolet and extreme-ultraviolet light. Led by Karin Dissauer and engineered by Eric L. Wagner, the NWRA team's new database makes it easier for scientists to use data from the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA) on SDO for large statistical studies, according to NASA.

The NWRA team studied a large sample of active regions from the database, using statistical methods developed by team member Graham Barnes. The analysis revealed small flashes in the corona preceded each flare. These and other new insights will give researchers a better understanding of the physics taking place in these magnetically active regions, with the goal of developing new tools to predict solar flares.

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First Published Date: 05 Mar, 20:22 IST
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