Terrifyingly powerful solar flare smashes into Earth; causes blackouts in Africa, solar storm coming today?

An M-class solar flare, the strongest of its kind, struck Earth yesterday. The powerful burst of X-rays and UV radiation caused a radio blackout all over Africa. Know if a solar storm will hit today.

| Updated on: Sep 17 2022, 12:33 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 Flare
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Strong solar flare eruption caused radio blackouts in Africa and Middle East. Find out if a solar storm can hit us today. (Pixabay)

The Sun took a violent turn yesterday. A solar flare erupted from within the sunspot AR3098. This was no ordinary sunspot as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) classified it as an M-class solar flare. This is one of the strongest types of solar flares that exist. The event was recorded using the tech marvel DSCOVR satellite. It has various instruments to observe temperature, speed, density, degree of orientation and frequency of solar particles ejecting from the Sun and calculates their intensity. This dangerous solar flare sent a powerful burst of X-rays and UV radiation towards the Earth and caused radio blackouts in Africa and the Middle East. At this moment, it is not clear if coronal mass ejection (CME) was also released and if it can give birth to a solar storm today or in days to come.

The report came from SpaceWeather.com which noted, “Departing sunspot AR3098 erupted today, Sept. 16th at 0949 UT, producing an impulsive M8-class solar flare: image. It was nearly an X-flare, the most powerful kind. A pulse of X-rays and extreme UV radiation caused a strong shortwave radio blackout over Africa and the Middle East. Ham radio operators in the area may have noticed unusual propagation conditions at frequencies below 25 MHz for as much as an hour after the flare”.

Solar flare hits the Earth

A shortwave radio blackout may not seem like a big deal, but it can cause a really difficult situation for many. From ships and planes in travel to ham radio operators, all suffered lack of connectivity. This means ships and planes would not be able to contact the radio center and their ability to navigate also goes down. Many ships get temporarily lost after losing connectivity with the command center.

It is also believed that if the incoming radiation blast was stronger it could even block other wireless transmissions like GPS, Internet and mobile phone networks. That would entirely eliminate communication systems and cause massive chaos in the world.

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First Published Date: 17 Sep, 12:33 IST