The Sun is getting more active as we inch closer to solar maximum – the peak of the Sun’s natural 11-year cycle – in 2025. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) which keeps an eye on solar activity, today captured a moderate solar flare emitted by the Sun.
Solar flares, an intense burst of radiation on the Sun, are our solar system’s most powerful explosive events. The most powerful flares have the energy equivalent of a billion hydrogen bombs, enough energy to power the whole world for 20,000 years, according to NASA.
Flares are not directly harmful to humans on Earth, but, the radiation from a flare can be harmful to astronauts outside of the planet’s atmosphere, and they can affect the technology we rely on – like high-frequency radio used for navigation and GPS.
As we inch closer to solar maximum, we will see a continuous crescendo of solar activity resulting in more beautiful and powerful imagery from our Sun. These images showcase moderate flares captured by SDO earlier today. Learn more: pic.twitter.com/vTjS5FvPOG
— NASA Sun & Space (@NASASun) August 26, 2022
According to NASA, during its 11-year cycle, the Sun shifts from relatively calm to stormy, then back again. During solar maximum – the period when the Sun is most active – it is freckled with sunspots and its magnetic poles reverse.
NASA’s SDO watches the Sun continuously and has greatly contributed to the scientific community’s understanding of the closest star.
The agency’s upcoming mission, Geospace Dynamics Constellation (GDC), will provide the first coordinated global-scale observations of the dynamic and complex region of space enveloping Earth – called the ionosphere and thermosphere (I-T) region, where the effects of solar activity are often seen. Scheduled for launch no earlier than September 2027, NASA’s GDC mission will help better mitigate space weather impacts on critical infrastructure in and around Earth.
Additionally, the European Space Agency’s upcoming Vigil mission will provide advance warnings for potentially hazardous space weather events before they endanger the health of astronauts in space or critical infrastructure. The mission is planned for launch in 2029.