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Massive M5-class solar flare erupts on Sun; blackouts hit Earth, solar storm coming too, shows NASA

An M5-class solar flare has erupted on Sunspot AR3511 in the early morning of December 9, NASA data shows. The eruption resulted in a short-wave radio blackout on Earth and a solar storm might be coming too.

Updated on: Dec 09 2023, 10:11 IST
The solar flare eruption took place on the southeastern limb of the Sun, as per NASA. A CME might have been released that can trigger a solar storm on Earth in the coming days. (NASA SDO)
The solar flare eruption took place on the southeastern limb of the Sun, as per NASA. A CME might have been released that can trigger a solar storm on Earth in the coming days. (NASA SDO)

Yesterday, it was the turn of Mars, and today, December 9, the Earth is again the central focus of the unceasing solar activity on the Sun. Just four hours ago, a massive solar flare eruption took place on the Sunspot AR3511, according to data from NASA. The solar flare was measured to be M5.49, which is the highest-intensity flare we have seen in the last three months. The flare subsequently triggered a short-wave radio blackout on Earth. It is possible that the flare also released a coronal mass ejection (CME) cloud directed toward the Earth. If it did, the Earth could suffer an intense solar storm event in the next 2-3 days.

According to a report by, “Sunspot AR3511 erupted on Dec. 8th (2307 UT), producing an M5-class solar flare and a shortwave radio blackout over the South Pacific Ocean. A CME might be in the offing. Confirmation awaits fresh data from SOHO coronagraphs”.

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Massive solar flare explodes on the Sun

The official X account of Space Weather Live also corroborated the incident in a post and highlighted that an R2 radio blackout was geoeffective in the Australia-New Zealand region. As a result, the mariners, aviators, drone pilots, amateur radio operators, and emergency responders could have experienced interference in their communication systems.

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Incidentally, this is the first Earth-directed solar flare eruption since December 7, and its origin point is the notorious Sunspot AR3511, which is now in the process of leaving the Earth’s view. It is believed that any future eruptions in the region are unlikely to impact our planet.

At the moment, it is not possible to confirm the possibility of a solar storm or its intensity since solar observatories are currently trying to assess whether a CME has been released. This should be done once the data from NASA Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) is received. The data will then be run in different space weather forecasting models, which will then tell us the probability of a solar storm in the next few days.

How NASA SOHO watches the Sun

NASA's SOHO is a satellite that was launched on December 2, 1995. It is a joint project between NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) to study the sun, its atmosphere, and its effects on the solar system. Equipped with 12 scientific instruments, such as an Extreme Ultraviolet Imaging Telescope (EIT), Michelson Doppler Imager (MDI), LASCO (Large Angle and Spectrometric Coronagraph), and others, SOHO captures images of the sun's corona, measures the velocity and magnetic fields of the sun's surface, and observes the faint corona around the Sun.

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First Published Date: 09 Dec, 10:10 IST