Solar storm fury! Australia, Indian Ocean region suffer blackouts as Sun EXPLODES

A new sunspot has exploded, resulting in M2-class solar flare eruption. The extreme ultraviolet radiation from the flare has caused radio blackouts in Australia and the Indian Ocean region. A solar storm can arrive soon.

| Updated on: Apr 11 2023, 10:30 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)
Solar storm
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Know all about the M2-class solar flare eruption that caused radio blackouts over Australia and a large region of the Indian Ocean. (Pixabay)

For the second time in less than a week, the Indian Ocean region has become a target for solar disturbances. On April 6, a solar flare eruption disrupted GPS service and low-frequency radio waves resulting in a short-wave radio blackout in the region. And now, in the late hours of April 10, another eruption, this time an M2-class flare, occurred which resulted in blackouts over the Indian Ocean region and Australia. Notably, the geoeffective area for this blackout included India, Japan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and other South Asian countries. Fears are now rising over another solar storm that might be arriving soon.

The incident was reported by which noted on its website, “A new sunspot is emerging over the sun's southeastern limb, and it is crackling with flares. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory recorded this M2-class eruption on April 10th. A pulse of extreme ultraviolet radiation from the flare ionized the top of Earth's atmosphere, causing a brief shortwave radio blackout over Australia and the Indian Ocean”.

Solar flare triggers blackouts for Australia, Indian Ocean

During this period of shortwave radio blackout, drone pilots, amateur radio operators, and aviators in the affected region 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. While the report has not mentioned the details around the duration, usually such blackouts stay for an hour to 90 minutes.

The Indian Ocean region escaped any solar storm impact for at least two years and now in just a week, it was exposed to two instances of radio blackouts. This is due to the increasing solar activity on the Sun as it is nearing the peak of its current solar cycle.

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

Role of the NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory

The NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) carries a full suite of instruments to observe the Sun and has been doing so since 2010. It uses three very crucial instruments to collect data from various solar activities. They include the Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager (HMI) which takes high-resolution measurements of the longitudinal and vector magnetic field over the entire visible solar disk, Extreme Ultraviolet Variability Experiment (EVE) which measures the Sun's extreme ultraviolet irradiance, and Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA) which provides continuous full-disk observations of the solar chromosphere and corona in seven extreme ultraviolet (EUV) channels.

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First Published Date: 11 Apr, 10:15 IST
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