EXTREME solar flare eruption sparked BLACKOUTS, NASA said; Another solar storm coming? | Tech News

EXTREME solar flare eruption sparked BLACKOUTS, NASA said; Another solar storm coming?

NASA has revealed that an extreme X2.2-class solar flare has erupted on the Sun which resulted in radio blackouts in the American continents. Is another solar storm headed for the Earth? Check details.

| Updated on: Feb 18 2023, 11:46 IST
Think you know our Sun? Check out THESE 5 stunning facts
Solar flare eruption
1/5 The Sun is the largest object in our solar system and is a 4.5 billion-year-old star – a hot glowing ball of hydrogen and helium at the center of the solar system. It is about 93 million miles (150 million kilometers) from Earth, and without its energy, life as we know it could not exist here on our home planet. (Pixabay)
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2/5 The Sun’s volume would need 1.3 million Earths to fill it. Its gravity holds the solar system together, keeping everything from the biggest planets to the smallest bits of debris in orbit around it. The hottest part of the Sun is its core, where temperatures top 27 million degrees Fahrenheit (15 million degrees Celsius). The Sun’s activity, from its powerful eruptions to the steady stream of charged particles it sends out, influences the nature of space throughout the solar system. (NASA)
Solar flare eruption
3/5 According to NASA, measuring a “day” on the Sun is complicated because of the way it rotates. It doesn't spin as a single, solid ball. This is because the Sun’s surface isn't solid like Earth's. Instead, the Sun is made of super-hot, electrically charged gas called plasma. This plasma rotates at different speeds on different parts of the Sun. At its equator, the Sun completes one rotation in 25 Earth days. At its poles, the Sun rotates once on its axis every 36 Earth days. (NASA)
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4/5 Above the Sun’s surface are its thin chromosphere and the huge corona (crown). This is where we see features such as solar prominences, flares, and coronal mass ejections. The latter two are giant explosions of energy and particles that can reach Earth. (Pixabay)
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5/5 The Sun doesn’t have moons, but eight planets orbit it, at least five dwarf planets, tens of thousands of asteroids, and perhaps three trillion comets and icy bodies. Also, several spacecraft are currently investigating the Sun including Parker Solar Probe, STEREO, Solar Orbiter, SOHO, Solar Dynamics Observatory, Hinode, IRIS, and Wind. (Pixabay)
Solar flare eruption
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NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) has detected an intense X2.2-class solar flare eruption which caused radio blackouts in the American continents. Check the solar storm warning. (NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory)

Earlier, NASA prediction models revealed that there was a chance of solar flare eruption between February 17 and February 18. The prediction stated that there was a high chance of an M-class solar flare eruption with a minor possibility of X-class solar flare. However, the resultant flare that erupted at around 1:46 AM IST last night was the worst we have seen in two years. An X2.2-class solar flare erupted on a freshly formed sunspot AR3229. The severe radiation from the eruption caused a shortwave radio blackout that spread across North and South America. And now, there are fears that another solar storm could be on its way.

The incident was reported by SpaceWeather.com which noted on its website, “New sunspot AR3229 erupted on Feb. 17th (2016 UT), producing a strong X2.2-class solar flare. Radiation from the flare ionized the top of Earth's atmosphere, causing a deep shortwave radio blackout over the Americas. Mariners, aviators and ham radio operators may have noticed loss of signal and other unusual propagation effects at frequencies below 30 MHz for more than an hour after the flare”.

Solar flare causes blackouts

The geoeffective region for this X2.2-class solar flare eruption was the entire western coast of American continents. The entire region between Chile in the south and Canada in the north came under the effect of the radiation coming from the solar explosion. The radio blackout affected independent planes and drones, small ships as well as amateur radio controllers, who all struggled to broadcast and receive communications.

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This is also one of the strongest solar flare explosions seen in recent times, which highlights the increasing intensity of the Sun as it reaches close to its peak. However, the danger is not over yet.

Such eruptions also release a huge amount of coronal mass ejections into space, and it can reach the Earth and cause yet another solar storm. Considering how powerful the eruption was, the resultant solar storm can be extremely powerful. A powerful solar storm can potentially damage satellites, break down mobile networks and internet services, cause power grid failures and corrupt sensitive ground-based electronics such as pacemakers and ventilators. However, whether this solar storm can turn so dangerous is something we have to wait and watch.

Know about the NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory

The NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) carries a full suite of instruments to observe the Sun and has been doing so since 2010. It uses three very crucial instruments to collect data from various solar activities. They include Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager (HMI) which takes high-resolution measurements of the longitudinal and vector magnetic field over the entire visible solar disk, Extreme Ultraviolet Variability Experiment (EVE) which measures the Sun's extreme ultraviolet irradiance and Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA) which provides continuous full-disk observations of the solar chromosphere and corona in seven extreme ultraviolet (EUV) channels.

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First Published Date: 18 Feb, 11:44 IST