Solar storm ALERT! M3-class solar flare sparks blackouts over Indian Ocean

A M3-class solar flare erupted on the Sun and it caused radio blackouts over the Indian Ocean region. Astronomers fear that it can also lead to another solar storm in the coming days.

| Updated on: Apr 07 2023, 09:23 IST
NASA: From Solar Winds, Solar Flares to CME, check how solar phenomena impact Earth
Solar storm
1/5 The harrowing thing is that it will not just be China that would be affected by such a devastating solar storm. (NASA)
Solar Flare
2/5 Solar Flares: Solar flares are photon flares emitted from the Sun which travel from the flare site. They are rated on the basis of their intensity with the highest being an X-rated solar flare. It can cause power and radio blackouts and are responsible for the stunning phenomenon known to us as the Northern Lights or Auroras. (NASA/SDO)
3/5 Coronal Mass Ejections (CME): CMEs are massive plasma clouds carrying photons that are ejected from the Sun. CME occurs during the solar cycle and is at peak in the middle of the cycle. (NASA)
Coronal Mass Ejection or CME
4/5 Solar Winds: Solar winds are high speed winds coming from holes in the Sun called Coronal holes. These holes can form anywhere on the surface of the Sun. If these solar winds prevail near the solar equator, they can cause impact on Earth, according to NASA. (Pixabay)
Solar Particles
5/5 Solar Energetic Particles: Solar energetic particles are emitted from the Sun during Coronal Mass Ejections. These are charged particles; hence they follow the magnetic field lines between the Sun and the Earth and if they pass the magnetic fields near Earth, they have an impact. (NASA)
Solar Storm
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Know all about the solar flare eruption that sparked blackouts in the Indian Ocean region. (Pixabay)

The Earth might have lucked out on Wednesday when it narrowly escaped the incoming wave of a coronal mass ejection (CME) cloud and avoided a solar storm event. However, things took a turn for the worse towards the south on Thursday, April 6, when a newly formed sunspot exploded spewing out an M3-class solar flare. The flare was Earth-directed and the high radiation has affected the Indian Ocean region. Multiple south Asian countries including India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, China, Japan and South Korea have fallen into its geoeffective area. The flare eruption has also caused a shortwave radio blackout in the region for a temporary period.

The incident was reported by which noted in its website, “There's a new sunspot rotating over the sun's southeastern limb, and it just produced an M3-class solar flare. The eruption on April 6th at 0553 UT caused a minor shortwave radio blackout over the Indian Ocean. More flares may be in the offing as the sunspot turns toward Earth”.

Solar flare causes blackout over Indian Ocean

This is the first time in at least two years when a solar flare eruption has directly impacted the Indian Ocean region. Usually, these flares impact the Pacific Ocean and surrounding countries such as Australia, New Zealand, South American countries and Western coast of the USA.

India has also fallen victim to this solar flare eruption and shortwave radio blackout affected the nation briefly. During this period, drone pilots, amateur radio operators and aviators would have faced temporary disruption of low-end radio frequencies (usually 30MHz or lower). Additionally, GPS services might also have faced disruption for airline services and ships in the region, although no confirmed reports for the same has been received.

While it is too early to tell, the eruption could have also released a CME cloud which can reach the Earth in coming days and cause a solar storm event. Such solar storms can damage satellites, disrupt mobile network and internet services and in extreme cases can also damage power grids and Earth-based sensitive electronics.

DSCOVR satellite's role in solar weather monitoring

NOAA monitors the solar storms and Sun's behavior using its DSCOVR satellite which became operational in 2016. The recovered data is then run through the Space Weather Prediction Center and the final analysis is prepared. The different measurements are done on temperature, speed, density, degree of orientation and frequency of the solar particles.

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First Published Date: 07 Apr, 09:22 IST
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