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Solar explosion triggered blackouts on Earth yesterday

A massive solar storm has caused widespread disruptions in Australia and South Asia, with more activity expected in the coming days. The colossal solar explosion released a plume of energized particles at an astonishing speed of 900,000 miles per hour through space. 

The solar storm reached Earth, triggering blackouts and affecting communication systems notably among ham radio operators and mariners.

Long-duration flare 

The event began with a long-duration flare that erupted from the sun at 8:30 pm ET on Monday. By Tuesday morning, shortly after 10 am ET, the solar explosion had made its presence felt on Earth, leading to notable disturbances. 

Chance of further disruptions 

The NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center has since issued an alert, indicating a 45 percent chance of further communication disruptions in the days ahead. 

This forecast highlights the unpredictable nature of solar activities and their impact on Earth’s technology.

M-class flare 

The flare, classified as an M-class flare by physicists, possesses the capability to cause small to moderate radio blackouts on Earth’s daylight side. This classification of solar flares is significant as it directly affects frequencies utilized in crucial services including aviation communication, government time stations, and weather stations, among others. 

Broad impact

Dr. Tamitha Skov, a physicist, highlighted the broad impact of such solar phenomena. She told Daily Mail: “Those who (are typically) impacted are people who rely on GPS/GNSS services, especially at high latitudes, as well as precision farmers and anyone using UAVs for reconnaissance, search and rescue, or aerial photography.”

Coronal mass ejections

M-class flares are known for their potential to launch coronal mass ejections (CMEs), which are massive eruptions of plasma and magnetic field from the sun’s surface. 

The recent CME contained billions of tons of solar material, capable of causing geomagnetic storms that disrupt Earth’s magnetosphere and satellites in orbit through a solar wind shock wave. 

Keith Strong, a solar physicist, shared insights on the trajectory of the CME, suggesting its potential impact on Earth due to its southern position on the sun.

High likelihood of continued activity

The incident underscores the sun’s volatile nature, with EarthSky’s predictions indicating a high likelihood of continued solar activity, including C, M, and X flares. While C-class flares are relatively minor, X flares represent major solar events with the capacity to cause significant disruptions globally.

The focal point of this solar activity was sunspot AR3575, responsible for the M-class flare directed towards Earth. In addition, another region, AR3576, is moving towards our planet and is so sizable that NASA’s Mars rover observed it last week.

This solar event did not just affect terrestrial communications but also had a significant impact on the poles, where the energized particle stream caused an outage lasting approximately seven hours. 

A scream from the Sun

Dr. Skov elaborated on the phenomenon, explaining how solar flares produce “radio bursts” that can overpower satellite signals, including GPS and HF radio communications. She compared this effect to the sun “screaming” at Earth, temporarily drowning out satellite communications.

“This ‘scream’ is much louder than our satellites can ‘chirp’ and so it drowns out the satellite signals temporarily,” Dr. Skov told Daily Mail. “That being said, the sun doesn’t always scream at the exact frequencies that affect GPS signals.”

Broader implications 

The recent solar explosion and subsequent blackouts serve as a vivid reminder of our vulnerability to the sun’s immense power. 

With ongoing research and monitoring, scientists continue to seek better understanding and prediction methods to mitigate the impacts of such solar phenomena on our increasingly technology-dependent world.

More about solar explosions

Solar explosions, primarily known as solar flares and coronal mass ejections (CMEs), are significant eruptions of electromagnetic radiation and plasma from the Sun’s surface and its atmosphere, the corona. These phenomena are the most powerful explosions in our solar system, emanating from the release of magnetic energy stored in the Sun’s atmosphere.

Solar flares

Solar flares are sudden, intense outbursts of radiation that originate from the Sun’s surface and its immediate atmosphere. They are caused by the tangling, crossing, or reorganizing of magnetic field lines near sunspots. 

The energy released during a flare can heat the Sun’s plasma to tens of millions of degrees Celsius, producing light across the electromagnetic spectrum, from radio waves to gamma rays. 

Although flares can last from minutes to hours, their effects on Earth, such as disturbances in the ionosphere, can impact radio communications, navigation systems, and even power grids.

Coronal mass ejections

Coronal mass ejections, on the other hand, involve the release of huge quantities of magnetized plasma into space. Unlike solar flares, which are electromagnetic, CMEs are massive bubbles of gas threaded with magnetic field lines that are ejected over several hours. They can propel billions of tons of coronal material into space at speeds ranging from 250 to over 2,000 kilometers per second. 

When these ejections are directed towards Earth, they can interact with our planet’s magnetic field, causing geomagnetic storms. Such storms can lead to spectacular auroras, but they can also disrupt satellite operations, communication systems, and power grids.


Both solar flares and CMEs are closely monitored by astronomers and space weather forecasters due to their potential to affect space- and ground-based technological systems. 

The study of solar activity and its effects on Earth is an important part of heliophysics, the science that deals with understanding the Sun and its interactions with the Earth and the solar system. 

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