Unstable sunspot explodes! Solar storm causes BLACKOUTS across America, NASA reveals

Earth continues to be bombarded by solar storms this week. On February 26 and 27, two consecutive coronal mass ejection (CME) clouds hit Earth, the latter of which was recorded as a very intense G3-class solar storm that caused auroras to be seen as far south as Colorado, delayed a SpaceX rocket launch, and caused oil rigs to was stopped in Canada. And yesterday, the unstable sunspot AR3234 exploded again, resulting in an M8.6 solar flare. It was discovered by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO). This massive eruption triggered shortwave radio blackouts across the American continents, and the fear is that another set of solar storms could be triggered because of it.

The event was reported by SpaceWeather.com which noted on its website, “Sunspot AR3234 exploded today, February 28 at 1750 UTC, producing an M8.6-class solar flare, percentage points below X-class. An impulsive burst of X-rays ionized the top of the Earth’s atmosphere, causing shortwave radio blindness over the Americas.” The report also highlighted that CME storms are possible in the coming days.

Solar flares cause radio outages

The geo-effective region for this “almost X-class” solar flare was all of South America, Mexico, and much of the United States and Canada. Both American continents were affected by the radiation from the solar explosion. The radio outage affected independent aircraft and drones, small ships as well as amateur radio controllers, all of whom struggled to broadcast and receive communications.

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This is also one of the strongest solar explosions seen in recent memory, highlighting the increasing intensity of the Sun as it reaches near its peak. However, the danger is not over yet.

Such eruptions also release a series of coronal mass ejections into space, and these can reach Earth within a day or so and cause another solar storm. Considering how powerful the eruption was, the resulting solar storm could be extremely powerful. A powerful solar storm could potentially damage satellites, bring down mobile networks and internet services, cause power outages and destroy sensitive ground-based electronics such as pacemakers and ventilators. However, whether this solar storm can become so dangerous is something we have to wait and see.

NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory

The NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) has a full suite of instruments to observe the Sun and has been doing so since 2010. It uses three very important instruments to collect data from various solar activities. They include the Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager (HMI) which takes high-resolution measurements of the longitudinal and vector magnetic field across the entire visible solar disk, the Extreme Ultraviolet Variability Experiment (EVE) which measures the Sun’s extreme ultraviolet irradiance and the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA) which provides continuous full-disk observations of the solar chromosphere and corona in seven extreme ultraviolet (EUV) channels.

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