The dangerous side of the sun.  In a few days, the source of the powerful glow will head towards Earth

The aforementioned solar flare was recorded on May 16 at 17:36 Polish time. The sunspot at that time was hidden from the view of an observer located on Earth at the southeastern edge of the sun’s disk. Solar physicists reportedWe were dealing with a strong M9.6 class flare.

However, it would be a mistake for someone to think that since the glow was not directed toward Earth, it had no effect on Earth. It was just the opposite. According to information provided by the US NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center, the radiation emitted in the flare caused short-term radio interference in North, Central and South America.

Read also: The sun next to this star is an obedient lamb. If the Earth revolved around it, we would be lost

However, it is worth remembering here what the situation looks like. The earth completes one revolution around the sun in 365.25 days. On the other hand, the sun also rotates on its axis. However, our star is not a solid body, but a ball of plasma, so different parts of its surface make a complete revolution at different times. This phenomenon is called differential rotation. Areas of the sun near the equator complete a full revolution in 26 days, while areas near the poles take about 33 days. Why do we use this information? Simply put, what was “on the other side of the sun” on Tuesday will be visible in the center of the sun’s disk this weekend. The sunspot will face us on Saturday. So far, there is no way to predict whether there will also be a flare or coronal mass ejection directed at us.

What kind of glow are we talking about?

As mentioned earlier, Tuesday’s flare is classified as an M9.6 class flare. However, this designation does not say much. All observed flares are rated on a scale from the weakest (A class), through increasingly powerful B, C, M, to the most powerful X class flares. Each subsequent class is ten times more powerful than the previous one. Additionally, each category is subdivided into categories 1 through 10, with 10 being the strongest glow from that category. In the case of the flare in question, we’re not just dealing with an M-class flare, but one of the most powerful flares possible in that class. If it is 4 per cent. Stronger, you will belong to the strongest X class.

The sunspot that was the source of the flare is highlighted in the image. Source: NOAA

Space weather specialists from the portal SpaceWeather.com It indicates that, contrary to appearances, it could be an X-class flame, but it was not properly evaluated because part of it was invisible to us (it was hidden behind the edge of the sun).

Effects of glow on Earth’s surface

Although the main part of the glow was directed towards the empty interplanetary space, the Earth was still partially exposed to the bounce. The intense X-rays and ultraviolet radiation from the flare, which traveled at the speed of light and reached Earth in less than nine minutes, ionized the thermosphere, or Earth’s upper atmosphere. As a result, this created interference of radio waves on the part of our planet that was illuminated by the Sun at that time. It’s safe to assume that if the same flare occurred over the weekend, when the sunspot faces Earth, the effects could be more severe.

Also read: What is the next step to solve one of the biggest mysteries of the sun? The list of study authors is staggering

Over the next few years, the probability of such events occurring will be relatively high. In its 11-year activity cycle, the Sun is currently heading for maximum activity expected in late 2024/early 2025. After that, activity should gradually decrease until the end of the current decade. Meanwhile, scientists are preparing to create an early warning system that would allow us to receive a warning about a flare as early as … 30 minutes in advance. Not much can be done in advance, but in the worst case, we will at least know what is responsible for interference or damage to transformers and the power grid.

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