As the sun approaches a new era, a increase of solar energy has been observed so what effect does it have on Earth?
NASA, the US space agency, has claimed the solar cycle of the sun may be “waking up” following the biggest solar flare reported in nearly three years.
NASA spacecraft are observing the latest sunspots family emerging on the sun ‘s neck.
The dark spots are really creating magnetic fields.
The solar flares can be detected in the top left corner of this image.
Sun spots increase until the middle of the cycle, known as the solar maximum, before decreasing in time as the cycle returns to the solar minimum.
NASA has said the recent detection shows we could be moving out of the solar minimum.
While some people worry about a “killer solar flare” unleashing so much energy it wipes out Earth, according to NASA that isn’t actually possible.
But the eruptions which occur throughout the cycle can have an effect on Earth if they’re powerful enough.
They can cause breathtaking auroras in the night sky or take down GPS and radio communications by disrupting their signal transmissions.
According to NASA, if there was a strong enough eruption it could even impact on our electricity grids.
A closer look at the light emanating from solar material tracing out magnetic field lines that are hovering over a set of sunspots shortly before they rotate over the left limb of the sun. Picture: NASA/Solar Dynamics Observatory/Joy NgSource:Supplied
The most recent solar flare, which was detected last Friday morning, wasn’t powerful enough to do that, or even powerful enough to prompt NASA to send an alert about it, but in an announcement the next day the agency said it could be the first signs that the sun’s solar cycle is ramping up.
“The intensity of this flare was below the threshold that could affect geomagnetic space and below the threshold to create an alert,” the agency said.
“Nonetheless, it was the first M-class flare since October 2017 – and scientists will be watching to see if the sun is indeed beginning to wake up.”
NASA said it will be a few months before we know for sure.
The solar minimum is when the sun has the lowest number of sunspots throughout its whole cycle, so the amount of spots needs to consistently rise before the minimum can be identified.
“This is partly because our star is extremely variable,” NASA said.
“Just because the sunspot numbers go up or down in a given month doesn’t mean it won’t reverse course the next month, only to go back again the month after that. So, scientists need long-term data to build a picture of the sun’s overall trends through the solar cycle.”