A massive solar flare which erupted from the sun on July 3 was the largest which has been observed since 2017. Solar flares are evaluated on a scale from smallest to largest; the recent flare was an X-class, the largest variety on the scale. Solar flares are generally not able to do any significant harm to Earth due to our atmosphere, but a powerful enough flare can interfere with technology which relies on satellites or GPS.
Solar flare was of the largest variety
A solar flare is a massive burst of radiation which emerges from the Sun after enough magnetic energy builds up.
Even the smallest flares can erupt with as much force as millions of nuclear bombs exploding at the same time.
They are generally a common occurrence and a normal part of the “space weather” which is tracked by scientists from NASA and other agencies.
C-class events are the smallest variety of flares recorded and are unlikely to have any effect on Earth. M-class flares are medium-sized and may cause short disruptions to certain areas.
X-class flares are extremely powerful events which can cause widespread radio blackouts and radiation storms in the upper atmosphere if conditions are right.
The July 3 solar flare reportedly caused a short blackout over the Atlantic Ocean before the rotation of the Sun prevented any further effects.
Sun approaches a more active phase
When a solar flare occurs on the side of the Sun which is facing away from the Earth it is unable to have any impact on our planet, though the American Space Weather Prediction Center continues to monitor flares that occur on the other side.
Solar activity rotates through cycles in which the surface of the Sun can become more or less active. The current cycle began late in 2019.
The Sun is still in a relatively quiet period in spite of the X-class flare. Activity will increase until July 2025, when it will reach a new maximum.
In April 2024, while this activity is still increasing, North America will experience a total solar eclipse, which scientists hope might offer a chance to study solar activity while it is close to a maximum.
There is still much about the Sun and solar activity which is not fully understood. Learning more will be essential to future space exploration.
For about two weeks the site of the X-class flare will be facing away from our planet while the Sun rotates. When it faces Earth again, Scientists hope to continue to study the effects of the event.