The Sun has been really quiet lately. In fact, since late in 2017, the Sun’s activity seems to have slowed down. That changed this week when scientists spotted the largest solar flare since October 2017.
A solar flare is a burst of radiation coming from sunspots (relatively cool patches on the surface of the Sun). The solar flare occurred on May 29 and was rated a M-class. Flares are rated as A, B, C, M, or X. An M-class flare is a medium sized flare and is not big enough to cause problems such as radio interference.
The flare has scientists excited that maybe the Sun is moving back to a more active phase of its normal 11-year cycle. The Sun’s cycles can range from 9 to 14 years long. When the cycle changes, it means the sun’s magnetic field has completely flipped. The Sun’s cycles have been measured since 1755. We are currently in Solar Cycle 24. Scientists will watch the Sun closely to determine if indeed, it is beginning its new cycle. If it is, it will be the beginning of Solar Cycle 25.