After a glancing blow by coronal mass ejections (CME) on February 20, that produced a very weak solar storm, it was expected that the Sun would be quiet for a while. However, that does not seem to be the case. Yesterday, February 21, another new sunspot, AR3234, has turned unstable and has been crackling with solar flares. In the last 24 hours, it has also produced multiple M-class solar flare eruptions, which have resulted in radio blackouts all across the planet. As the Earth struggles with this ordeal, there are fears that another X-class solar flare eruption could easily trigger a terrifying solar storm.
The development comes from a report by SpaceWeather.com which noted on its website, “New sunspot AR3234 is crackling with solar flares including multiple M4- and M5-class events on Feb. 21st. Pulses of radiation from AR3234 are ionizing the top of Earth’s atmosphere, causing a rolling series of shortwave radio blackouts around all longitudes of our planet”.
Strong solar activity results in blackouts
Radio blackouts are caused by solar flare eruptions, which release an extremely high amount of radiation, such as X-rays and gamma rays, into space which interrupts wireless communication through satellites. Usually, these happen over a small region, depending on whichever part of the Earth is within the geoeffective range of the flare. However, this time, the entire Earth succumbed to this solar onslaught. This happened because there were continuous solar flare eruptions which resulted in a series of shortwave radio blackouts around the Earth.
The radio blackout affected independent planes and drones, small ships as well as amateur radio controllers, who all struggled to broadcast and receive communications.
Fears of solar storm
Such eruptions also release a huge amount of coronal mass ejections into space, and it can reach the Earth and cause yet another solar storm. Considering how lengthy the eruption was, the resultant solar storm can be extremely powerful. A powerful solar storm can potentially damage satellites, break down mobile networks and internet services, cause power grid failures and corrupt sensitive ground-based electronics such as pacemakers and ventilators. However, whether this solar storm can turn so dangerous is something we have to wait and watch.