As the Sun moves closer to the peak of its 11-year cycle, it is releasing more and more flares. The peak of this cycle, known as solar maximum, is when the Sun goes from being relatively tranquil to being very active and turbulent. At this point, the Sun’s north and south poles switch places, leading to an increase in solar flares, geomagnetic storms, and coronal mass ejections.
NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) captured an image of a powerful solar flare that erupted from the Sun on January 5, 2023. NASA classified this flare as an X1.2 flare, with X-class denoting the most intense flares.
Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation released from the sun’s surface. They are caused by the sudden release of magnetic energy stored in the sun’s atmosphere. Solar flares can last anywhere from minutes to hours and can cause a variety of effects on Earth, including radio blackouts, power outages, and disruptions to satellite communications.
The flare peaked at 7:57 p.m. EDT on Thursday. The above image taken by SDO shows a subset of extreme ultraviolet light that highlights the extremely hot material in flares.
Solar flares impact Earth only when they occur on the side of the sun facing Earth.
The Sun emitted a strong solar flare on Jan 5, 2023, peaking at 7:57 p.m. ET. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory captured an image of the event, which was classified as X-class. pic.twitter.com/njXe8ZJGMH
— NASA Sun & Space (@NASASun) January 6, 2023
NASA’s SDO is designed to understand the causes of solar variability and its impacts on Earth. Since its launch in 2010, the mission has provided valuable data on the Sun’s magnetic field, which is important for understanding how the Sun affects Earth’s climate.
The spacecraft is equipped with a suite of instruments that allow it to observe the Sun in multiple wavelengths, from the visible to the extreme ultraviolet.