Mysterious ‘sparks’ in the sun could help scientists predict solar flares

Mysterious ‘sparks’ in the sun could help scientists predict solar flares

Solar flares, powerful bursts of radiation from the sun, are often preceded by a pre-flare spark, scientists have discovered. The finding could lead to better predictions of solar storms, which can disrupt power grids and communication systems on Earth.

The scientists made the discovery after delving into years of data from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), a satellite that has been observing the sun since 2010. Since the 1970s and 1980s, researchers have witnessed these flashes leading up to the flares, using tools like ground-based observatories, so there was a lot of anecdotal evidence that the flashes and flares were related, KD Leka (opens in a new tab), a senior research scientist at NorthWest Research Associates (NWRA) in Boulder, Colorado, told Live Science. But those researchers didn’t have instruments like SDO, which constantly observes and records the sun’s activity from space.

“Images of [the sun] they have definitely been helping scientists and forecasters understand when an active region is likely to produce flares,” Leka said.

Two images of an active solar region taken by SDO/AIA show extreme ultraviolet light produced by million-degree coronal gas (top images) the day before the region lit up (left) and the day before it went quiet and not flare (right). The changes in brightness (bottom images) at these two times show different patterns, with patches of intense variation (black and white areas) before the flash (lower left) and mostly gray (indicating low variability) before the period. calm (lower right) . (Image credit: NASA/SDO/AIA/Dissauer et al. 2022)

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