Solar storm strikes Earth! Blackouts affect parts of USA as MASSIVE solar flare erupts

The solar activity was high over the weekend as a huge solar flare erupted on the Sun. The severe ultraviolet radiation sparked a radio blackout over the western USA and the Pacific Ocean. Another solar storm might also have been triggered.

| Updated on: May 09 2023, 11:51 IST
Wrath of Sun! Solar flares spark Geomagnetic storms, blackouts, and more on Earth this week
Solar Storm
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)
Pink sky
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)
double aurora
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)
Solar storm
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)
Solar storm
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)
Solar Storm
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)
Aurora Borealis
View all Images
A solar flare eruption sparks radio blackouts over the western USA and part of the Pacific Ocean. Know if a solar storm is coming next. (Pixabay)

Last week, astronomers witnessed really high solar activity after a sunspot complex turned unstable and began exploding. Over a period of four days, the sunspot triggered solar flares at regular intervals creating a rolling series of blackouts over the Earth. But the worst of it came on Sunday, May 7, when an M1.5-class solar flare erupted and the ultraviolet radiation caused a shortwave radio blackout over the western USA and part of the Pacific Ocean. Concerns are now rising on whether a solar storm has been triggered by the solar flare or not.

According to a report by, “Reversed-polarity sunspot AR3296 just did it again. The backwards active region exploded on May 7th (2234 UT), producing a long-lasting M1.5-class solar flare. The blast was squarely Earth-directed. Extreme ultraviolet radiation from the flare ionized the top of Earth's atmosphere, producing a minor shortwave radio blackout over the western USA and the Pacific Ocean”.

Solar storm fears rise for Earth

Luckily, the blackout was a brief one and did not cause any major issues, but for the time it was active, mariners and ham radio operators could have noticed a loss of signal at frequencies below 20 MHz. Drone operators would also have struggled with connectivity issues.

But now, there is a fear of a solar storm that can soon strike the Earth. According to NASA Solar and Heliospheric Observatory's (SOHO) coronagraph, a coronal mass ejection (CME) cloud was released during the eruption. Scarily, the impact can cause a strong geomagnetic storm tomorrow, May 10. The expected intensity of the storm has been estimated to be between G2 and G3.

Such storms can do more damage than normal. They can damage small satellites, impact mobile networks, GPS, and even pose a threat to ground-based electronics and power grids by increasing the magnetic potential by huge amounts.

How NASA SOHO monitors the Sun

NASA's SOHO (Solar and Heliospheric Observatory) 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 the 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: 09 May, 11:49 IST