Strong M-class solar flare sparks radio blackout over Australia, Southeast Asia

Sunspot AR3575 has been spewing out large amounts of solar material lately, with multiple coronal mass ejections and solar flares originating from this source. On February 6, this sunspot hurled out a dangerous M-class solar flare that caused blackouts in several regions around the world. Solar activity has been on a dangerous rise in the last few months, and it is expected to increase as we approach solar maximum. Know all about the strong M-class solar flare that impacted Earth in the last few days.

M-class solar flare

In an X post, Space Weather Physicist Dr. Tamitha Skov wrote, “As if on cue, Region 3575 fires an M4.2-flare with a high R1-level #RadioBlackout and launches a gorgeous #solarstorm. Likely this storm is not Earth-directed, but it sure makes for some pretty fireworks.”

NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory revealed that the solar flare took just 8 minutes to reach Earth while travelling at the speed of light. It was reported to be an M4-class solar flare and had an intensity of M4.2. A SpaceWeather report revealed that the shortwave radio blackout occurred due to extreme ultraviolet radiation from the flare which ionized the top of Earth’s atmosphere. It caused radio blackouts across Australia and Southeast Asia, and communication blackout was observed at frequencies below 30MHz even an hour after the solar flare peaked.

When charged solar particles hit Earth, the radio communications and the power grid are affected when they hit the planet’s magnetic field. It can cause power and radio blackouts for several hours or even days. However, electricity grid problems occur only if the solar flare is extremely large. 

Are M-class solar flares dangerous?

According to NASA, M-class solar flares are moderate in intensity and have the potential to cause brief radio blackouts. This is because when solar particles hit Earth, the radio communications and the power grid are affected when they hit the planet’s magnetic field.

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