Another powerful solar flare rocked the sun on Friday, just days after scientists registered a separate eruption as the most powerful event of its kind in over a decade.
Speaking to Sputnik, Russian physicist Sergei Bogachev explained what it was about this solar activity that’s so mysterious.
The sun shot out another massive solar flare at 8:00 GMT Friday, according to a solar activity graph by the Laboratory of Solar X-Ray Astronomy at Russia’s Lebedev Physical Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences. The X-class solar flare, the biggest class of solar flare there is, was nearly ten times more intense than scientists expected.
Friday’s solar flare follows a series of eruptions which started earlier this week, beginning with five minor M-class events, and continuing Wednesday with a pair of X-class and X9.3-class flares which scientists said were the largest events on record since 2006. Experts said the solar activity was a consequence of changes on the star observed over the last three days. Two large groups of sunspots first accumulated an enormous amount of energy, and then emitted it via the flares.
Scientists have said the consequences of this natural phenomenon are difficult to predict. Speaking to Radio Sputnik, Dr. Sergei Bogachev, chief researcher at the Lebedev Physical Institute, said that in one very important sense, the events of this week have been a mystery.
“This event is not so much abnormal as it is mysterious,” Bogachev explained. “It’s mysterious because solar flares don’t come from nothing. They require energy, which then turns into explosions. But such energy has not been seen on the sun over the last year.”
“So in a sense, it is mysterious that in a short time, large spots containing colossal amounts energy were formed, and are now ‘tormenting’ earth with this series of flares. Most importantly, they aren’t calming down, or exhausting this unexpected reserve of energy.”
According to the scientist, the incredible solar flare activity on the sun may cause disruptions in the work of satellites and communications systems. However, solar flares in themselves are not capable of destroying life on earth.
“A certain danger exists, of course, but not of an apocalyptic nature. Not to be offensive, but the sun is a dwarf star, and isn’t capable of producing solar events of such magnitude as would destroy life on our planet. But it is capable of some excessive perturbations which can affect life, creating what we are seeing right now.”
In Bogachev’s view, even though humanity is not capable of using the colossal energy that’s being pumped out directly, we can take advantage of it through the use of solar power energy.
“The energy contained in these large-scale events on the sun is colossal – it really boggles the mind. In the space of a minute, sometimes even less, energy equivalent to humankind’s entire consumption of energy over a million years is released. At the same time, we should remember that the energy released from the explosion is chaotic, and in a sense, of poor quality. It’s extremely difficult to harness it for humanity’s benefit. Therefore, in this sense it would be preferable to talk about the use of sunlight [emitted by this solar activity]. This is a colossal stream of solar radiation. And when we speak of the future of solar energy, it is probably possible to connect it to these kinds of factors. But solar flares on the sun will probably be more likely to harm the use of this energy than help it.”