What is a solar flare and why is Earth in danger from the Sun

    The Sun has unleashed a large number of solar flares in the last couple of months and many have expressed far about the consequences! But what is a solar flare?
    By: HT TECH
    | Updated on: Jun 30 2022, 21:16 IST
    A solar flare is a sudden outbursts of electromagnetic energy on the surface of the Sun that is shot outwards and if the Earth is in the way, it suffers the consequences.
    A solar flare is a sudden outbursts of electromagnetic energy on the surface of the Sun that is shot outwards and if the Earth is in the way, it suffers the consequences. (NASA)
    A solar flare is a sudden outbursts of electromagnetic energy on the surface of the Sun that is shot outwards and if the Earth is in the way, it suffers the consequences.
    A solar flare is a sudden outbursts of electromagnetic energy on the surface of the Sun that is shot outwards and if the Earth is in the way, it suffers the consequences. (NASA)

    The volatile nature of the Sun is a constant threat to the earth. The reason is the cycle of explosions of energy that keep happening there. We are talking about solar flares. In the last few months, many solar flares erupting on the surface of the Sun have been reported. This is all due to the new “solar cycle", which lasts roughly 11 years. During this transition of the solar cycle, the Sun transforms its nature from relatively calm to active and stormy. The solar cycle keeps repeating itself. All these recent solar storms are consequences of the new Solar Cycle 25. But what is a solar flare? Why does it occur? Know everything about solar flares here.

    What is a solar flare?

    A solar flare is a powerful and very serious eruption of electromagnetic radiation generated on the surface of the Sun. These sudden outbursts of electromagnetic energy travel at shocking speeds and can reach earth within hours. A solar flare, if transmitted towards the Earth, can have a significant effect on the Earth.

    Effect of a solar flare

    Earth's magnetic field and upper atmosphere largely deflect solar protons carrying high-energy X-rays and ultraviolet radiation as a consequence of a solar flare. This works as a shield to protect Earth from the most dangerous effects of solar flares. Still, Earth is not totally safe from the effect of solar flares, as it still has a significant effect. So, when Earth's atmosphere absorbs the solar flare particles, then the atoms and molecules of gas in the atmosphere become electrically charged, which can interfere with short-wave radio communications.

    X-class solar flares are the most dangerous and intense solar flares in nature. They can trigger radio blackouts and long-lasting radiation storms in the Earth's upper atmosphere, Stephanie Yardley, a space weather specialist at University College London, U.K., told Live Science.

    However, Satellites are at the maximum risk from short-circuits due to these solar flares. The energy unleashed from the solar flares can heat up and leave the satellites stricken. The effect on the earth's atmosphere can so great that it can affect even satellite launches. This happened recently when solar flares affected the atmosphere above earth so much that several of SpaceX's Starlink satellites being launched into space could not overcome the effects to reach a certain safe altitude and fell back to earth. Not just that, if a solar flare is strong enough, it can generate a huge geomagnetic storm on the Earth and this has the potential of destroying mobile phone networks, Internet, electricity grids and other technological infrastructure that we are so dependent on.

    However, a solar flare does have one fascinating effect on Earth- it can generate auroras or northern and southern lights. All those dazzling colourful auroras are a gift of solar flares.

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    First Published Date: 30 Jun, 21:16 IST
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