On Thursday, NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory captured images of the sun emitting a mid-level solar flare that peaked at 1.01 am EDT (11.31 am EDT). A solar flare is a powerful burst of electromagnetic radiation that can last from minutes to hours. NASA classifies the flare as phosphorescent of type M5.5, an X-ray beam of moderate intensity.
“The sun emitted a mid-level solar flare on January 20, 2022, peaking at 1:01 am EDT,” the US space agency said.
While harmful radiation from flares cannot pass through Earth’s atmosphere to physically affect humans on Earth, when severe, it can affect radio communications, power grids, navigation signals and pose a risk to spacecraft and astronauts. According to NASA, increased levels of X-rays and intense ultraviolet radiation cause ionization in the lower layers of the ionosphere on the sunlit side of Earth.
When a sufficiently strong solar flare occurs, the radio waves that interact with the electrons in the layer lose energy due to collisions which occur more frequently in the high-density environment in the lower layers of the ionosphere. This can cause the entire HF radio signal to be completely degraded and absorbed, resulting in radio blackout.
Sun flares usually occur in active regions, i.e. areas on the Sun characterized by the presence of a strong magnetic field; They are usually associated with sunspot clusters. As these magnetic fields develop, they can reach a point of instability and release energy in various forms. This includes electromagnetic radiation, which is observed as solar flares,” the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Weather Prediction Center says on its website.