The Sun Produced Its Biggest Solar Flare Since 2017
by Nora McGreevy/Smithsonianmag.com
Last month, the massive, hot ball of glowing hydrogen and helium at the center of our solar system—otherwise known as our sun—released its largest solar flare since October 2017. Although it’s too early to know for certain, NASA says in a statement that this new activity might indicate that the sun is “waking up” from its cyclical slumber.
As Hannah Osbourne reports for Newsweek, activity on the sun’s surface increases and decreases according to a roughly 11-year cycle, although that can vary. During the period known as the solar minimum, the sun has few sunspots and decreased surface activity; during the solar maximum, on the other hand, sunspots and solar flares tend to be plentiful. The last solar maximum peaked in 2014, per Newsweek, so scientists expect the sun to reach its solar minimum soon, although it’s difficult to predict exactly when.
As Victoria Jaggard reported for Smithsonian magazine in 2014, a solar flare is a burst of radiation that occurs when a magnetic energy releases from the outermost part of the sun’s atmosphere, also known as its corona. This extremely hot layer burns at more than one million degrees Celsius, Nicholas St. Fleur reported for the New York Times in 2017. ….Read More: