Shocking! Blackouts hit US, Canada after powerful solar flare eruption, NASA satellite shows

The NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory spotted an M6-class solar flare eruption on the Sun. The strong ultraviolet radiation sparked a major radio blackout in North America that affected the US and Canada.

| Updated on: Jul 12 2023, 11:56 IST
Think you know our Sun? Check out THESE 5 stunning facts
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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)
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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)
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Know all about the solar flare eruption that triggered a terrifying radio blackout. (NASA)

The coronal mass ejection (CME) that is racing to strike Earth tomorrow, July 13, is still on its way and it is likely to cause a terrifying solar storm. However, before that could hit, another solar menace has already struck the planet. On July 11, the NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) detected a huge explosion on the northeastern limb of the Sun, which is believed to be a region where a new sunspot had emerged. The explosion produced a powerful M6-class solar flare eruption. The eruption was so strong that the ultraviolet radiation made its way to the Earth and sparked a radio blackout over North America. The majorly affected countries were the US and Canada.

According to a report by, “A big new sunspot is emerging over the sun's northeastern limb, and it is crackling with solar flares. The strongest so far, an M6-class explosion on July 11th (1808 UT), saturated pixels in the telescope system onboard NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory”.

It further added that the extreme ultraviolet flash resulted in ionizing the upper atmosphere of the atmosphere creating a radio blackout over North America and “doppler-shifting the frequency of America's WWV time-standard radio transmissions”.

Blackouts plague the Earth as another solar storm approaches

This week has been rather lively in terms of solar activity. The week began with a threat of an internet apocalypse which was quickly debunked. Soon after, a CME release was noted by NASA satellites and it is expected to hit on Thursday. Meanwhile, a new and rather unstable sunspot has entered the Earth's view and has already exploded once sparking a blackout.

Shortwave radio blackouts block low-frequency radio waves. This majorly affects GPS connectivity and radio transmission for aviators, drone controllers, mariners, and emergency workers. If the intensity of the solar flare is high, and consequently a strong ionization of the Earth's atmosphere occurs, it can even block mobile networks and interfere with satellite internet connectivity.

While the threat of blackouts is gone, now the Earth must brace itself for the incoming solar storm.

How NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory monitors solar activity

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: 12 Jul, 11:53 IST
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