Blackouts hit Earth as 8 M-class solar flares erupt in 24 hours, says NASA; Solar storm threat rises

In the last 24 hours, as many as 8 M-class solar flares have erupted on a new sunspot sparking a rolling series of radio blackouts all across the Earth, NASA satellite detected. Is this a sign of a big incoming solar storm?

| Updated on: Jul 13 2023, 11:12 IST
Do all solar activities like solar storms, CME, impact Earth? This is what NASA says
Solar flare
1/5 Sun is a source of energy and a lot of activities keep on happening on the fireball. But can Earth be impacted by solar activities? Before we tell you that, it is important to know what solar activity is? According to NASA, solar flares, coronal mass ejections, high-speed solar wind, and solar energetic particles are all forms of solar activity. All solar activity is driven by the solar magnetic field. (NASA)
Solar flare
2/5 Solar flares impact Earth only when they occur on the side of the sun facing Earth. Because flares are made of photons, they travel out directly from the flare site, so if we can see the flare, we can be impacted by it. (Pixabay)
Solar flare
3/5 Coronal mass ejections, also called CMEs, are large clouds of plasma and magnetic field that erupt from the sun. These clouds can erupt in any direction, and then continue on in that direction, plowing right through the solar wind. Only when the cloud is aimed at Earth will the CME hit Earth and therefore cause impacts. (NASA)
image caption
4/5 High-speed solar wind streams come from areas on the sun known as coronal holes. These holes can form anywhere on the sun and usually, only when they are closer to the solar equator, do the winds they produce impact Earth. (NASA)
image caption
5/5 Solar energetic particles are high-energy charged particles, primarily thought to be released by shocks formed at the front of coronal mass ejections and solar flares. When a CME cloud plows through the solar wind, high velocity solar energetic particles can be produced and because they are charged, they must follow the magnetic field lines that pervade the space between the Sun and the Earth. Therefore, only the charged particles that follow magnetic field lines that intersect the Earth will result in impacts. (NASA)
Solar flare
icon View all Images
The solar flares were erupted on the sunspot AR3372 in the northeastern side of the Sun. Researchers reveal that the sunspot is “seething” with activity. (Pixabay)

In the early hours of July 12, a single M-class solar flare was produced by an emerging sunspot on the northeastern limb of the Sun, and it sparked blackouts over the North American continent, as per reports. But since then, as many as 8 different M-class solar flares have been produced by the same region, sunspot AR3372, the NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory has detected. The flares have sparked a rolling series of blackouts all across the Earth. The sunspot appears to be highly reactive and crackling with activity. This has also raised concerns about any coronal mass ejections (CME) released in the process that can potentially strike us in the coming days.

According to a report by, “In the last 24 hours alone it (Sunspot AR3372) has produced eight M-class solar flares…causing a rolling series of shortwave radio blackouts around all longitudes of our planet. Ham radio operators, mariners, and aviators may have noticed a loss of signal below 30 MHz on multiple occasions since July 11th. In addition, episodes of sudden ionization in the atmosphere are doppler-shifting the frequency of time-standard radio stations such as Canada's CHU and America's WWV”.

The report further added that if the current trend continues, there can be more M-class solar flares and even X-class flares. Worse still, the sunspot is moving more and more towards the Earth's view and any activities in the coming days will be more geoeffective.

Sunspot goes berserk, spits out 8 M-class solar flares

Multiple solar flare eruption is not rare. We saw a similar incident in the month of March when a farside sunspot kept exploding continuously for three days, releasing an intense cloud of CME, that could have triggered a G5-class solar storm on Earth, had it been directed towards us. However, what is rare is such an extreme activity taking place on the Earth-facing side of the Sun.

With such intense solar activity, the chances are high that one of these eruptions will also release CME. And if we are unlucky enough to get hit by a strong solar storm, it can destroy small satellites, disrupt GPS and mobile networks, damage the internet infrastructure, cause power grid failure, and even corrupt sensitive ground-based electronics.

How NASA SOHO watches the Sun

NASA's SOHO (Solar and Heliospheric Observatory) 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 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.

Follow HT Tech for the latest tech news and reviews , also keep up with us on Whatsapp channel,Twitter, Facebook, Google News, and Instagram. For our latest videos, subscribe to our YouTube channel.

First Published Date: 13 Jul, 10:41 IST