Earlier, NASA prediction models revealed that there was a chance of solar flare eruption between February 17 and February 18. The prediction stated that there was a high chance of an M-class solar flare eruption with a minor possibility of X-class solar flare. However, the resultant flare that erupted at around 1:46 AM IST last night was the worst we have seen in two years. An X2.2-class solar flare erupted on a freshly formed sunspot AR3229. The severe radiation from the eruption caused a shortwave radio blackout that spread across North and South America. And now, there are fears that another solar storm could be on its way.
The incident was reported by SpaceWeather.com which noted on its website, “New sunspot AR3229 erupted on Feb. 17th (2016 UT), producing a strong X2.2-class solar flare. Radiation from the flare ionized the top of Earth’s atmosphere, causing a deep shortwave radio blackout over the Americas. Mariners, aviators and ham radio operators may have noticed loss of signal and other unusual propagation effects at frequencies below 30 MHz for more than an hour after the flare”.
Solar flare causes blackouts
The geoeffective region for this X2.2-class solar flare eruption was the entire western coast of American continents. The entire region between Chile in the south and Canada in the north came under the effect of the radiation coming from the solar explosion. The radio blackout affected independent planes and drones, small ships as well as amateur radio controllers, who all struggled to broadcast and receive communications.
This is also one of the strongest solar flare explosions seen in recent times, which highlights the increasing intensity of the Sun as it reaches close to its peak. However, the danger is not over yet.
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 powerful 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.
Know about the NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory
The NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) carries a full suite of instruments to observe the Sun and has been doing so since 2010. It uses three very crucial instruments to collect data from various solar activities. They include Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager (HMI) which takes high-resolution measurements of the longitudinal and vector magnetic field over the entire visible solar disk, Extreme Ultraviolet Variability Experiment (EVE) which measures the Sun’s extreme ultraviolet irradiance and Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA) which provides continuous full-disk observations of the solar chromosphere and corona in seven extreme ultraviolet (EUV) channels.