The Sun has produced its largest solar flare in three years in what could be a sign it is entering its next life cycle and a period of increased activity, NASA scientists have said.
The global space agency recorded the flare from a group of sunspots – dark magnetic fields that dot the face of the Sun – at 3.24am on Friday and is now monitoring whether more activity will come from the star.
The flare was described by NASA as an M-class solar flare – the second-strongest radiation classification – however the agency also said the burst cannot pass through Earth’s atmosphere to affect humans.
NASA scientists have recorded the largest solar flare from a group of sunspots on the surface of the Sun since 2017. (Supplied – NASA)
“The sunspots may well be harbingers of the Sun’s solar cycle ramping up and becoming more active,” NASA said in a statement yesterday.
“As the Sun moves through its natural 11-year cycle, in which its activity rises and falls, sunspots rise and fall in number.
“This new sunspot activity could be a sign that the Sun is possibly revving up to the new cycle.”
Sunspots are dark magnetic fields that dot the face of the Sun – as seen in this artist’s illustration of NASA’s Parker Solar Probe approaching the Sun. Picture: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Steve Gribben (AP/AAP)
The Sun’s Solar Cycle 25 was tipped to begin at some point in late 2019, however scientists can only determine in hindsight when a star’s lowest point of activity is and when the next period begins.
For that reason, it could be up to six months before NASA knows whether the Sun’s solar activity is increasing from the group of sunspots.
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