A new way to predict solar flares could prepare us for the potential disaster caused by flares, Science reported recently. Predicting solar flares is difficult because we don’t know how the flares are triggered. While telescopes can see and provide some warning when the flare occurs, high-energy particles can reach Earth in as little as eight minutes — potentially endangering astronauts’ health and damaging satellites before we have time to react.
“The Great Flare is a potential danger to our society,” said Kanya Kusano of Japan’s Space Earth Environment Institute. Therefore, the prediction of solar flares is crucial. “
The Kusano team says their “Kapa scenario” can predict the occurrence of solar flares hours before they occur. Applying the method to data from 2008 to 2019, the team was able to predict seven of the nine largest flares, known as X-level flares, 24 hours in advance.
Kusano said previous predictions had a success rate of up to 50 percent, relying on observations of sunspots in the solar activity zone, while the Kapa program relied on strong magnetic fields associated with solar flares.
Before the flare begins, the current flows along the sun’s magnetic line. When two of these lines overlap, they go through a process known as “reconnecting” that knocks the two lines together and releases huge amounts of energy, which is a solar flare.
Using magnetic and imaging data from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), the team was able to predict where and when these reunited events might occur. Two other unpredictable flares are reunited events far from the sun’s surface, and these reconnected events are not within the SDO’s observation, which is why they are missed.
Kusano hopes the method could be used to predict future large solar flares. “We are now trying to apply this finding to space weather forecasting,” he said. “