On Sunday, November 29, 2020, the sun released its strongest solar eruption in the last three years.
The solar flare is a bright explosion that happens suddenly. The measures on the astronomers’ scale show that the unleashed electromagnetic energy was M4.4 big. The letter M means that the solar flare is a medium-sized eruption, and the number 4.4 is a rank on the scale from 1 to 9 where higher numbers represent more powerful flares.
There was a coronal mass ejection that accompanied the M4.4 solar flare. The sun releases magnetic fields and plasma from its outermost layer which is called corona. When they are in large amounts, they’re called coronal mass ejections.
A brand new solar cycle has begun
With the powerful explosion that happened at the end of November, a brand new solar cycle began. The previous solar cycle lasted for 11 years, from 2008 to 2019. Although the new solar activity phase started very powerfully, scientists assume that it will be a quiet solar cycle.
Following solar activity cycles regularly is something that is of huge importance not just for science, but for our lives too. Coronal mass ejections and solar flares unleash a very strong explosion of electromagnetic radiation. The effects from these sudden expulsions of energy reach the Earth and cause technological disruptions like radio blackouts.
But only the solar flares that are X-class size generate radio blackouts, and the ones that happened on November 29, were M-class flares and they can cause only minor consequences on earth.
Astronomer Tony Philips gave some details about this solar flare at Spaceweather.com where you can read more about its technological effects. As he reports, there is a shortwave radio blackout over the Southern Atlantic ocean generated by the ultraviolet radiation and X-rays from this M4.4 solar flare.
Philips says that this flare probably had X-class size, not an M-class because the event happened partially behind the sun. However, we expect to have more information about the exact size of the solar flare from the Spacecraft, because they had a better view of it.