Disruptive Solar Flares

A solar flare on June 7, 2011. (NASA)

The surface of the Sun contains sunspots which are the centres of magnetic activity.  The build up of magnetic fields causes them to break and release energy in the form of light and heat.  Sunspots continue to develop and rotate to brighten the atmosphere with the release of solar flares.

When two or more sunspots rotate within the same period of time, the energy injected into the Sun’s magnetic field has the power to produce large solar flares also known as coronal mass ejection. Billions of charged particles are launched toward the Earth and causes disruptions to satellites and telecommunications.

Researchers from the Reading University, one of the top ranking academic institution for research in UK, say that there will be more disruptive solar storms within decades and will have a great impact not only to technology but to aircrafts as well. These storms are the solar flares or large explosions within the atmosphere of the Sun.

The research team also predicts a more hazardous radiation to hit the Earth in the next few decades. This occurs when the Sun is at the stage of lower solar activity. Since 1920, the Sun is at a grand solar maximum and there are evidences that this will soon be shifted towards the solar minimum. There may be fewer solar flares during this low period but the radiation and ejected particles will be more powerful, faster and greater in number. Lower solar activity also gives way to more radiation from other parts of the universe to enter the solar system.

In another study by a group of researchers from Stanford University in California, a technique has been developed that allows the advance warnings of sunspots formation. These findings mean early detection of areas in the Sun where there is high magnetic activity that could result to solar storms.

The success of the research studies on solar flares formation and early warning signs bring relief not only to communications and aviation but to mankind as a whole.

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JW

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