The Sun’s largest solar flare in more than 12 years – and the eighth largest since modern records began in 1996 – has been captured in high detail by scientists.
The huge burst of radiation, which was not harmful to humans due to the Earth’s protective atmosphere and distance from the Sun, occurred unexpectedly on September 6, 2017, researchers, including those from the University of Sheffield and Queen’s University Belfast in the UK, said.
The flare was one of three X-category flares – the largest type of flare – observed over 48 hour period, they said.
The large solar bursts have energies comparable to one billion hydrogen bombs and can drive plasma away from the solar surface at speeds of up to 2,000 kilometres per second (km/s) in phenomena known as coronal mass ejections.
These powerful events, known as space weather, can lead to disruption to satellites and Global Positioning System (GPS) signals, as well as spectacular aurora through their interaction with the Earth’s atmosphere.