Huge so­lar flare lights up sky with au­rora dis­play

Wales On Sunday - - NEWS -

SPECTACULAR au­rora dis­plays seen across the north­ern hemi­sphere in re­cent days, in­clud­ing parts of Bri­tain, have been caused by a huge so­lar flare with the en­ergy of a bil­lion hy­dro­gen bombs, UK sci­en­tists have said.

The largest so­lar flare for more than 12 years – and the eighth largest since mod­ern records be­gan in 1996 – erupted from the sun on Wed­nes­day.

The mas­sive burst of ra­di­a­tion, one of three so called X-cat­e­gory flares ob­served over a 48-hour pe­riod, con­tin­ues to pro­duce spectacular au­rora dis­plays across north­ern lat­i­tudes. In the UK, the North­ern Lights have been vis­i­ble across a wide area.

A team from a con­sor­tium of UK universities, in­clud­ing the Univer­sity of Sh­effield and Queen’s Univer­sity Belfast, ob­served the huge coro­nal mass ejec­tions in ex­tremely high de­tail us­ing the Swedish So­lar Te­le­scope on the is­land of La Palma, in The Ca­naries.

Dr Chris Nel­son, from the Univer­sity of Sh­effield’s School of Maths and Sta­tis­tics, said: “It’s very un­usual to ob­serve the open­ing min­utes of a flare’s life. To ob­serve the rise phases of three X-classes over two days is just un­heard of.”

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