The Earth-facing side of the Sun has become a hotbed of intense solar activity. Due to the negative polarity of a sunspot complex, a large region has been continuously exploding since the last week. Many solar flares have erupted as a result, with an M1.5-class flare being the strongest so far. And today, an extremely rare double solar flare eruption has occurred, that has triggered blackouts over North America and the Pacific Ocean. It has also hurled a coronal mass ejection (CME) cloud, but it remains to be confirmed whether it was Earth-directed or not.
According to a SpaceWeather.com report, “Reversed-polarity sunspot AR3296 just unleashed a double solar flare. Extreme ultraviolet radiation from the double blast ionized the top of Earth’s atmosphere, causing a shortwave radio blackout over North America and the Pacific Ocean. This explosion also hurled a CME into space, possibly toward Earth”.
Rare solar flare eruption triggers blackouts
While solar flares are regular occurrences, a double solar flare eruption is quite rare. During this, two solar flares in close proximity set off in quick succession. Such flares pack a powerful punch and also are capable of hurling a large amount of CME into space.
It has not been confirmed whether the CME from this eruption is Earth-directed, but if it is, it can be bad news. Yesterday, we learned that the M1.5-class flare sent a CME wave which can trigger a G2 to G3-class geomagnetic storm on Earth this week. If this CME somehow merges with the former, then the overall impact can be extremely severe.
Such solar storms 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.
Notably, another CME cloud hit the Earth earlier today, May 10. Although it was too weak to produce an immediate geomagnetic storm, a minor storm is possible later today as the Earth passes through the CME’s strongly magnetized wake.
NOAA’s DSCOVR satellite’s role in solar storm monitoring
NOAA monitors solar storms and Sun’s behavior using its DSCOVR satellite which became operational in 2016. The recovered data is then run through the Space Weather Prediction Center and the final analysis is prepared. The different measurements are done on temperature, speed, density, degree of orientation, and frequency of the solar particles.
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