Solar flares alert: Russian scientists warn of communication chaos on Earth today!

Russian scientists warn that powerful solar flares observed on July 16 may disrupt Earth's communications, posing potential challenges for signal transmission and satellite systems.

| Updated on: Jul 17 2023, 18:07 IST
Wrath of Sun! Solar flares spark Geomagnetic storms, blackouts, and more on Earth this week
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1/6 Activity on the Sun was quite high in the first week of May 2023. The week began with the sunspot AR3288 exploding, which resulted in a massive solar flare eruption, which caused a shortwave radio blackout in multiple regions including northern and western Africa, the northeastern region of South America, and some fringe areas in western Europe. (Pixabay)
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2/6 On Wednesday, multiple coronal mass ejection (CME) clouds struck the Earth. These were released the previous weekend when a magnetic filament erupted. This sparked a G1-class geomagnetic storm on Earth.  (Pixabay)
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3/6 The very next day, “Sunspot complex AR3293-3296 turned unstable and began exploding continuously (an event which is still going on today, three days since its start). As a result, the Earth experienced a rolling series of shortwave radio blackouts. (@amazingskyguy / Twitter)
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4/6 On day two of the sunspot complex explosion, multiple CME clouds were released from the surface of the Sun, however, due to so many CMEs escaping together, the telescopes were not able to find out whether one of them was Earth-directed or not. (Pixabay)
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5/6 The suspicion that one of the CME was indeed Earth-directed became clear as today, NOAA forecasters declared that a geomagnetic storm can hit our planet today after a CME wave was seen headed for us. Reportedly, G2-G3-class geomagnetic storm can strike the Earth later today. (NASA)
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6/6 But sadly, that won’t be the end of solar activity for this week. Another geomagnetic storm is expected to arrive either tomorrow, May 7, or on May 8. And in case both of these merge, the resultant storm can be terrifying. (NASA/SDO)
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Russian Scientists warn of communication disruptions on Earth today due to solar flares. (NASA)

Russian scientists have issued a warning that powerful solar flares observed on July 16, 2023, may cause disruptions to communications on Earth today. According to a report by news agency Reuters, the Fedorov Institute of Applied Geophysics in Moscow has highlighted the potential for X-class solar flares, including proton flares, which could interfere with short-wave communications.

Solar flares occur when the magnetic field lines near sunspots, cooler regions on the Sun's surface, overlap and release a sudden burst of energy. Among these flares, X-class flares are the most potent. Flares are categorized based on their strength, with B, C, M, and X representing increasing levels of intensity. An X-class flare is approximately 10 times stronger than an M-class flare and 100 times stronger than a C-class flare.

Disruptions to communication systems and previous ‘Solar Storm' incidents

Proton flares are a specific type of X-class flare that expels high-energy protons into space. These solar events have the potential to disturb signal transmission by affecting the upper atmosphere, as stated by NASA. GPS satellites, for example, may experience interference during such disruptions.

The Fedorov Institute reported that one of the observed solar flares on July 16 lasted for 14 minutes and caused disruptions in radio communication. This highlights the real-world impact of these powerful events.

In recent times, Earth has experienced significant solar activity. On March 31, 2023, a solar storm resulting from a large coronal hole in the Sun's atmosphere affected our planet. The size of this coronal hole was estimated to be 20 to 30 times greater than Earth.

Predictive insights and the role of solar flare monitoring

Additionally, on March 24, Earth encountered the most severe solar storm in nearly six years. This storm, classified as a G4 geomagnetic storm, had the potential to disrupt power systems and spacecraft operations. Geomagnetic storms occur when Earth's atmosphere undergoes a major disturbance due to the efficient transfer of energy from the solar wind to the surrounding space environment.

In January 2023, a study published in The Astrophysical Journal revealed that solar flares and space weather storms can be predicted to some extent by monitoring flashes on the Sun. Scientists from the NorthWest Research Associates (NWRA) analyzed data from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, identifying small signals in the upper layers of the solar atmosphere. These signals provide valuable insights into the regions on the Sun that are more likely to produce flares.

The warnings issued by Russian scientists serve as a reminder of the potential disruptions caused by powerful solar flares and the importance of preparedness in mitigating their impacts on Earth's communications systems.

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First Published Date: 17 Jul, 18:07 IST