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The sun releases the largest flange since 2017. Does our star wake up?

The sun maybe finally get out of his sleep.

This morning (May 29), our star fired its strongest flare since October 2017, an eruption spewed by NASA’s sunrise Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO).

Solar flares are rays that originate from sunspots, temporary dark and relatively cool spots on the sun surface that have very strong magnetic fields. Researchers classify strong flanges into three categories: C, M and X. Each class is 10 times more powerful than the one below it; M flares are 10 times stronger than C flares, but 10 times weaker than X class events.

related: The Wrath of the Sun: Worst solar storms in history


7;s flare was an M-class outbreak, so it was no monster. (And it was not aimed at the earth, so there is no chance of supercharged auroras from a potential associated coronal mass ejection But the eruption may still be a sign that the sun is going up to a more active phase in its 11-year activity cycle, NASA officials said. If so, the latest cycle, called Solar Cycle 24, may have already ended.

Scientists fix the start of new cycles to the “solar minimum”, the time when the sun is least on sunspots and least activity.

“However, it takes at least six months of solar observations and expects sunspots to a minimum to know when it occurred,” NASA officials wrote today in a an update announcing SDO’s flare discovery.

related: The sun has two kinds of spots right now in the middle of a solar cycle change

“Because this minimum is defined by the lowest number of sunspots in a cycle, researchers must see that the number is constantly increasing before they can determine when they were at the bottom,” the officials added. “This means that the solar minimum is an instance that can only be recognized afterwards: It can take six to 12 months after the fact to confirm when the minimum has actually passed.”

So stay tuned! More observations should tell us if we are already in Solar bike 25.

Mike Wall is the author of “Out there“(Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.

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