Solar storm fears rise as CME heads for Solar Orbiter; Blackouts hit America after solar flare

The chances of a massive solar storm striking the Earth have increased after the last 24 hours as a solar flare eruption sparked a radio blackout over the American continents and a CME is just about to strike the Solar Orbiter spacecraft, which can be dangerous.

| Updated on: Sep 09 2023, 14:17 IST
Do all solar activities like solar storms, CME, impact Earth? This is what NASA says
solar storm today
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)
solar storm today
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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A solar storm can soon strike the Earth. (Pixabay)

Solar activity has been on the rise ever since the start of the month. We have seen multiple solar flare eruptions and a couple of solar storms so far, but luckily they were not major events and their impact was very limited. However, in the last 24 hours, things have started to change. An M2.12-class solar flare erupted on the Sun, which in turn sparked a shortwave radio blackout on both the American continents. But that wasn't the worst incident of the day, as later, it was detected that a powerful coronal mass ejection (CME) cloud is headed for the the Solar Orbiter, the Sun-observing probe by the European Space Agency (ESA), and will strike it today, September 9. These events have raised concerns that an intense solar storm strike on the Earth is not too far away.

CME strike on Solar Orbiter

According to a report by, “A farside halo CME is heading straight for the spacecraft. According to a NASA model, the CME will strike on Sept. 9th, giving Solar Orbiter's sensors an in situ view of the storm. The source of the blast was probably active sunspot AR3414, now transiting the farside of the Sun”.

Luckily, the Solar Orbiter is not in the line of sight of the Earth, and as such this CME is not likely to come close to our planet. Further, the Solar Orbiter is also not expected to get any damage considering the spacecraft was built keeping such incidents in mind, and there are multiple layers of protective sheets on the probe to protect it - to a certain extent.

Solar flare triggers radio blackout

On September 8, an M2.12-class solar flare erupted on the Sun, marking the most powerful activity in the last 72 hours, as per SpaceWeatherLive, which posted about it on its official X account. Soon, the same source reported a minor R1 radio blackout that struck the Pacific Ocean next to North and South America. But it was not the end of the consequences of this solar flare eruption.

Solar storm warning

Finally, Tamitha Skov, famous space weather physicist, posted on X revealing that a solar storm is likely to strike the Earth tomorrow or the day after. She said, “We may have another #solarstorm on the way! Region 3425 fires an M2-flare and partially launches a filament at the edge of the Earth-strike zone. Waiting for coronagraph imagery now to see if this #solarstorm might graze Earth. If so, impact could be late Sep 10 or early Sep 11”.

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First Published Date: 09 Sep, 14:17 IST