Multiple solar flares explode, spark blackouts on Earth; Is a terrifying solar storm coming?

The solar storm threat has increased manifold after two solar flares exploded just hours ago, sparking radio blackouts on Earth. Complicating the situation, a new sunspot was seen doubling in size since Friday.

| Updated on: Sep 11 2023, 12:14 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)
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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)
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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
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Solar storm threat rises after 2 Earth-directed solar flare explosions were detected. (Pixabay)

The Earth suffered a solar storm hit on September 9, and now another solar storm threat is looming for our planet. Just hours ago, a solar flare of M1.3-class was detected erupting on the Earth-facing side of the Sun. The solar flare sparked a shortwave radio blackout over the Pacific Ocean. It was followed by another solar flare eruption at 9:30 AM today, September 11, which also sparked a blackout over Japan, South Korea, and eastern regions of China. These continuous solar flare explosions are coming from sunspot AR3429. Additionally, another sunspot region, named AR3423, has also become a threat after it doubled in size since Friday and now spans 100,000 kilometers in width.

According to a post by the official X account of SolarWeatherLive, the first solar flare, which was of the M1.39-class intensity, went off at 7 AM in the morning. Soon after, low-frequency communications suffered a blockage due to heavy solar radiation from the flare. This created a temporary radio blackout. This was again repeated at 9:30 when another solar flare, this time M1.19-class in intensity, went off and sparked another blackout. Also read: What are solar storms? Everything you need to know about geomagnetic storms

Solar storm scare increases for the Earth

These two incidents have raised concerns among researchers on whether another solar storm can be sparked. With multiple flare eruptions, even if they remain moderate, there is a chance that enough coronal mass ejection (CME) can be hurled toward the Earth, leading to a terrifying event.

For now, various space-based solar observatories are observing the site of these eruptions to determine if a CME was released which can eventually strike the Earth.

But that's not all. Yet another threat lurks nearby. According to a report by, “Big sunspot AR3423 has doubled in size since Friday; the active region is now more than 100,000 km wide with four primary dark cores wider than Earth. The sunspot's magnetic poles are well separated, so it does not yet pose a threat for strong flares. If this changes, however, the sunspot is directly facing Earth, so any strong flares will be geoeffective”. Also read: Solar storm, solar flare, and CME: Do they all impact the Earth?

How NASA SDO collects its data

The NASA 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: 11 Sep, 11:19 IST