Solar storm DANGER! Intense solar flare explosion sparks blackouts on Earth, NASA says

In the evening hours of May 1, NASA recorded a solar flare eruption on the Sun. The explosion occurred on the unstable sunspot AR3288. Is a solar storm on its way to the Earth now?

| Updated on: May 02 2023, 09:18 IST
Think you know our Sun? Check out THESE 5 stunning facts
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)
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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As per NASA, the eruption was recorded to be from an M7-class solar flare. The extreme ultraviolet flash caused a brief radio blackout on the Earth. Astronomers are concerned over the possibility of a solar storm now. (NASA)

On April 30, the forecasters from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) warned about a sunspot, named AR3288, which was growing at an exponential rate and contained unstable delta-class magnetic fields. Just a day after the warning, the sunspot exploded, blasting a powerful solar flare in the direction of the Earth. As per NASA, it was an M7-class flare eruption and it sparked a radio blackout over the Atlantic Ocean region. The bigger question now is whether a solar storm is coming for the Earth.

A SpaceWeather report said, “Unstable sunspot AR3288 erupted today, May 1st at 1309 UT, producing a brief but intense M7-class solar flare. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory recorded the extreme ultraviolet flash. Radiation from the flare ionized the top of Earth's atmosphere, disrupting the normal propagation of radio transmissions on the planet below”.

Solar flare sparks radio blackouts on Earth

The geoeffective region for the short-wave radio blackout includes northern and western Africa, the northeastern region of South America, and some fringe areas in western Europe. Most of the impact was suffered the by Atlantic Ocean region. The radio blackout caused a loss of signal below 20 MHz for as much as 30 minutes after the explosion.

Another concern after such solar flare eruptions is a solar storm event. Usually flares also release huge amounts of coronal mass ejections (CMEs) from the surface of the Sun and into space. These travel to Earth and hit its magnetic fields and spark a geomagnetic storm. In worst cases, such storms can disrupt GPS and mobile networks, hamper internet connectivity, damage satellites, cause power grid failures, and even corrupt ground-based electronics.

The NASA Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) coronagraph images have revealed that a significant CME leaving the blast site was not noticed and no conclusive evidence for an incoming solar storm was recovered. More clarity is expected over the next two days.

How NASA SOHO monitors the Sun

NASA SOHO is a satellite that was launched on December 2, 1995. It is a joint project between NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) to study the sun, its atmosphere, and its effects on the solar system. Equipped with 12 scientific instruments, such as Extreme Ultraviolet Imaging Telescope (EIT), Michelson Doppler Imager (MDI), LASCO (Large Angle and Spectrometric Coronagraph) and others, SOHO captures images of the sun's corona, measures the velocity and magnetic fields of the sun's surface, and observes the faint corona around the sun.

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First Published Date: 02 May, 09:16 IST