Look: UAE astronomer captures 'giant flames from sun' as strongest solar storm hits Earth

These rare emissions cause disturbances in the planet's magnetic field, creating the majestic northern lights


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Photos: X / Mohammad Odeh, International Astronomy Centre
Photos: X / Mohammad Odeh, International Astronomy Centre

Published: Sat 11 May 2024, 1:34 PM

Last updated: Sat 11 May 2024, 8:52 PM

The UAE may have missed the northern lights that adorned skies in other parts of the world as an 'extreme' solar storm struck Earth on Friday evening — but it didn't mean the phenomenon was completely out of sight in the country.

One UAE astronomer was able to capture a rare celestial scene that's just as interesting: Giant flames bursting from the sun — how the solar storm started.

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Mohammad Odeh, chairman of International Astronomy Centre (IAC), on Saturday shared images of the "giant sunspot" that triggered the most powerful geomagnetic storm the Earth has seen in 20 years.

This massive sunspot cluster was 17 times wider than Earth — and from this spot, several coronal mass ejections (CMEs) emerged. These expulsions of plasma and magnetic fields threatened disruptions to power grids and satellites, according to an advisory from the US-based National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Using special telescopes, Odeh photographed the sun from the IAC's Astronomical Seal Observatory in Abu Dhabi.

This first image he shared shows the giant sunspot:

The second one captured giant flames emanating from the sun:

How did it create the aurora borealis?

Monitoring the phenomenon, Odeh said the sun saw four strong flares during the past two days. The first one was recorded at 1pm, UAE time, on May 9; then at 10pm on the same day; at 10.54am on Friday; and at 5.23am on Saturday.

From these flares, a CME was released towards Earth.

"When these emissions reach Earth, they cause disturbances in the Earth’s magnetic field and cause the appearance of the aurora borealis. Due to the intensity of these explosions and emissions, the aurora borealis was seen in areas that had not been seen for a long time," the expert explained.

Ohio, US — Photo: AFP
Ohio, US — Photo: AFP

The incredible sightings of the northern lights in the northern hemisphere came from the first flare that struck Earth at 8pm, GMT(12am, UAE time), on Friday.

Here's a map that shows where aurora borealis was seen:

More flares are about to hit the planet, he said.

"The second emission is expected to arrive today, Saturday, at 11pm GMT, and the third emission is expected to arrive tomorrow, Sunday, at 10am, while the fourth emission is expected to arrive tomorrow, Sunday, at 11 noon," Odeh said.



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