NASA: Massive solar storm hits Earth, sparks VHF radio blackout in Asia, Australia

NASA: A huge solar flare erupting on the surface of the Sun sent a solar storm towards the Earth on April 17. The solar storm was so strong that it caused radio blackouts.

According to the US Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC), a powerful solar flare on the surface of the Sun caused radio blackouts in Asia and Australia. On Sunday, April 17, a solar flare peaked and was soon followed by a massive coronal mass ejection (CME). The CME was hurled in the direction of the Earth and the resultant solar storm soon hit the planet at full intensity causing radio frequencies to collapse across the wide geography of Asia and Australia. NASA said it affected aviators, seamen and others. Several places had to shut down their VHF radio bands. Find out how strong the solar storm was and why the Earth is being bombarded by solar storms so frequently these days.

The SWPC, part of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), reported that the solar flare which caused the radio blackout was a X1.1-class flare. X-class solar flares are the strongest out there and they can cause the highest amount of damage. For the uninitiated, solar flares are classified into A, B, C, M and X. While A, B and C are the weakest and generally do not release enough energy to cause a significant solar storm, M and X are the moderate and extreme solar flares which can cause some damage.

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NASA: X-class solar flare results in radio blackout on Earth

Solar storms are often associated with auroras in the sky, but instances like these highlight how dangerous they actually are. The solar burst was also recorded by the Solar Dynamic Observatory by NASA. It stated, “A pulse of X-rays from the flare produced a strong shortwave radio blackout over southeast Asia and Australia”. Citing the affected areas, it added, “Mariners, aviators and ham radio operators may have noticed unusual propagation effects at frequencies below 30 MHz”.

Interestingly, NOAA had earlier modeled the trajectory of the CME unleashed towards the Earth, and predicted that it will miss our planet and pass right behind us causing no harm. However, it appears that the CME changed its direction at the last moment and inclined towards the Earth.

The solar flares had originated from Region 2994 and 2993. These regions on the Sun have a cluster of active sunspots that have been constantly bombarding our planet with solar storms. “Solar activity is expected to be active over the next week as these sunspots migrate across the visible disk”, said SWPC in an update.

Erlando F Rasatro

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