Solar flare erupts on Sun, detects NASA; blackouts over Australia, Solar storm likely

A solar flare erupted on the Sun and sparked radio blackouts over the region of Australia and New Zealand. It also raised fears of a solar storm. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory has taken images of this chaotic event.

| Updated on: Oct 10 2023, 11:18 IST
Do all solar activities like solar storms, CME, impact Earth? This is what NASA says
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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)
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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)
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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)
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The solar flare was noted to be of M1.18 intensity. (NASA/SDO)

Despite multiple close calls, we have been quite lucky when it comes to solar storms. Even as multiple solar flares have erupted over the last 10 days, only one released a coronal mass ejection (CME) that made its way to the Earth. However, things can now change with the latest eruption that took place in the sunspot region AR3452. The NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory detected the eruption, and as per reports, it took place on the eastern limb of the Sun. If there was any CME directed towards the Sun, there would be another solar storm event in the next 48 hours.

The official X account of Space Weather Live, a website monitoring solar storms and other space weather-related phenomena, posted about it at 8 AM, today, October 10. The post mentioned, “Moderate M1.61 flare from sunspot region 3452”, highlighting the intensity of the event. NASA also shared a video of the event.

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Solar flare explodes, sparks blackouts over Australia

A separate post was also made minutes earlier where it alerted about a “Minor R1 radio blackout in progress” over Australia and New Zealand, as a result of the extreme ultraviolet radiation coming from the solar flare. This shortwave radio blackout persisted for a brief period and might have resulted in communication disruptions for drone pilots, mariners, aviators, and emergency responders. It also remains to be seen if the Earth suffers a solar storm strike from this incident.

Luckily, the eruption occurred on the edge of the eastern limb of the Sun, and as the NASA video shows, any CME impact may fall out of the Earth's strike zone. But nothing can be confirmed before the solar storm forecast models give their predictions. Considering the intensity of the solar flare, it is assumed that even if a solar storm does occur, it will be a minor event.

The tech behind solar observation

While many space agencies from NASA with its Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) keep track of Sun-based weather phenomena, one that particularly stands out is the DSCOVR satellite by NOAA. The satellite became operational in 2016 and tracks different measurements of the Sun and its atmosphere including temperature, speed, density, degree of orientation, and frequency of the solar particles. The recovered data is then run through the Space Weather Prediction Center and the final analysis is prepared.

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First Published Date: 10 Oct, 11:18 IST