What causes solar flares and how to predict them

(ORDO NEWS) — Solar flares, as it turned out, depend not on sunspots, but on reconnection of the star’s magnetic fields, with the strongest flares occurring due to double M-shaped magnetic arcs.

Space weather forecasting is all guesswork. Predictions of solar flares are usually based on the degree of activity observed on the surface of the Sun, and without taking into account any specific processes.

But the new forecasting technique will help predict strong emissions of radiation, scientists said. The new method has already predicted several powerful flares.

Radiation from solar flares can be harmful. It affects radio signals, damages satellites and power grids, and harms astronauts. More accurate forecasts will avoid all this by temporarily shutting down, for example, sensitive systems.

Modern forecasting methods are based on monitoring sunspots – dark areas on the sun’s surface with powerful magnetic fields. But this is ineffective and leads to a lot of false alarms.

The new forecasting method is based on loops of the Sun’s magnetic fields. Scientists are tracking their rearrangements, known as magnetic reconnections, during which bursts of energy occur – solar flares.

The lines of the sun’s magnetic field loop and intersect with each other. When these lines break and reconnect, a tremendous amount of energy is released, causing flares. It is not yet fully understood how and under what conditions this happens.

In a new study, physicist Kanya Kusano of the University of Nagoya in Japan and colleagues suggest that the strongest flares occur when two arc-shaped magnetic field lines join to form an M-shaped loop. This “double arc instability” expands during reconnection and releases tremendous energy.

The researchers identified areas on the Sun with high magnetic activity and found out whether there were conditions for the appearance of a double magnetic arc. Then they predicted the most powerful flares. In seven out of nine cases, the predictions were correct.

This suggests that the researchers may have identified the underlying physical process that underlies the most powerful solar flares.


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