The same hyperactive sunspot that triggered radio blackouts and spectacular aurora displays on Earth earlier this week has released another solar flare, which NASA’s orbiting Solar Dynamics Observatory has captured.
The satellite, which studies Earth’s parent star from 36,000 miles (42,000 kilometers) above the planet’s surface, captured the medium-strength type M flare on Thursday (March 31) at 2:35 p.m. EDT (1835 GMT).
According to NASA, astronomers can snap photographs of the sun’s disk every ten seconds using the Solar Dynamics Observatory that are ten times sharper than HDTV. This colorized image vividly shows the flare’s high temperature in the extreme ultraviolet band.
An M-class flare is a blast of light-speed electromagnetic radiation from the sun that is one of the most powerful solar flares. To put it another way, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, it was on the verge of achieving X-class strength (NOAA). According to NOAA, the flare reached Earth and caused a temporary radio blackout.
Sun, we need to talk about your flare. 🌞
The Sun emitted a significant solar flare on March 30, peaking at 1:35 p.m. ET (17:35 UTC). Our orbiting @NASASun Solar Dynamics Observatory captured the action: https://t.co/8nIuyoSmOH pic.twitter.com/JmtB8PuBvM
— NASA (@NASA) March 30, 2022
When solar flares emit X-ray and UV radiation, they ionize the Earth’s upper atmosphere, disrupting high-frequency radio communications. In addition to the exosphere, thermosphere, and mesosphere sectors, the ionosphere extends from 30 miles (48 kilometers) above the planet’s surface to 600 miles (1000 kilometers) (965 kilometers).
High-frequency radio waves that travel long distances are often reflected back to Earth by the upper ionosphere. However, radio waves lose energy as they travel through the atmosphere after being generated by a solar flare in the lower ionosphere.
A minor blackout might disrupt communications for tens of minutes, according to the Met Office, the UK’s leading weather forecaster. This kind of blackout, which mainly affects aircraft and marine communications, is especially harsh on radio amateurs and shortwave broadcasters. Furthermore, ionization may interfere with the transmission of GPS signals, such as those transmitted by the US.