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Featured Image Credit: Thomas Pesquet/Flickr
An astronaut from the European Space Agency has captured something that is absolutely incredible.
The sun has been dishing out a lot of energy as it reaches its solar maximum and solar flares have been hurling towards earth.
Thomas Pesquet photographed the moment one solar flare in particular lit up the northern part of the world with dazzling auroras.
He wrote on Twitter: "We were treated to the strongest auroras of the entire mission, over north America and Canada.
"Amazing spikes higher than our orbit, and we flew right above the center of the ring, rapid waves and pulses all over."
That would have been one hell of a sight to see and Thomas was kind enough to take a picture of the natural phenomenon to post on social media.
What you're witnessing is highly-charged particles that have exploded from the sun, travelled across the emptiness of space, collided with earth's magnetic field and diverted to the northern poles of the planet.
When they reach our magnetosphere, the particles interact with atoms in earth's upper atmosphere and release energy in the form of light.
And voila, you get this stunning display of colour that, in this instant, was spread across North America and extraordinarily high.
The sun goes through a roughly 11-year cycle and the solar maximum is when the activity produced by the sun is at its peak.
Scientists as far back as 1755 have counted the number of sunspots on our celestial centre as a way to estimate how intense each cycle is.
But they've been monitoring this latest cycle, dubbed Solar Cycle 25, and believe it could be the strongest on record.
The previous cycle, which ended in 2019, was recorded as being the weakest in 100 years and many through Solar Cycle 25 would mirror that.
However, am article published in Solar Physics by researchers at the University of Warwick and the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) believe the reverse is true.
How the sun can go from one of the lowest on record to one of the highest is anyone's guess, however they believe they've identified as many as 260 sunspots, when the average is 179.
Sunspots are used to help predict space weather, the state of the ionosphere, and conditions of short-wave radio propagation or satellite communications.
It's essential for scientists are able to detect changes in the sun so that they will have advance warning of solar flares knocking out our communication systems.