A large solar flare exploded from a sunspot early on Monday and caused temporary radio blackouts over vast areas of the South Pacific. It is thought the flare erupted around 00:11 UTC according to Dr Alex C. Young, heliophysics at Nasa’s Goddard Space Flight Center, as per Newsweek.
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A solar flare is an intense burst of radiation coming from the release of magnetic energy associated with sunspots and is our solar system's biggest explosive event, as per NASA. Some solar flares can also cause plumes of charged particles called coronal mass ejections. It’s these that can damage satellites and cause radio blackouts when they reach earth.
Dr Young posted on Twitter:
IT'S ALIVE! The Sun is up from its nap! An M5.2 flare came from AR3141 at the beginning of Nov. 7 at 00:11 UTC. Bring it on AR3141!! The radio blackout was over the Pacific.
The solar flare measured an M5.2 intensity on the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa) intensity scale and this is considered to be moderately strong.
The coronal mass ejections were enough to cause radio blackouts but were not as intense as an event earlier in the year. On February 4th, a geomagnetic storm caused the Earth’s atmosphere to ‘swell just enough to pull 40 newly launched SpaceX satellites out of orbit’, according to the Independent.
The sun has a cycle of activity of approximately 11 years where peaks and troughs of activity. The next solar maximum is calculated to be in 2025 so we can expect a lot more flares and solar activity moving forward.
Whilst the sounds of solar flares and charged particles flying towards the earth might sound intimidating, it is unlikely to be any serious threat to our civilisation.
Despite our world relying so much on electromagnetic communication, the likelihood of a solar flare knocking out global communications is extremely slim, however, it can still cause significant damage.
Rami Qahwaji, a visual computing professor at the University of Bradford reports, according to Newsweek:
A number of conditions need to be satisfied for the maximum damage to occur. It happened in the past (The Carrington Event 1859), but back then we didn't have critical digital infrastructure, similar to what we have today. But an event similar to the Carrington event happening today could result in between $0.6 and $2.6 trillion in damages to the U.S. alone
-Newsweek ''It's Alive': Sunspot Explodes Creating Huge Solar Flare, Radio Blackouts'
- NASA 'What is a solar flare?'
- Twitter @TheSunToday