A solar flare hit Earth today, causing radio blackouts in Australia and New Zealand

Radio blackouts in the South Pacific.
Ameya Paleja
Solar activity
Solar activity

-Vitan-/iStock 

A medium-intensity solar flare hit the Earth's magnetosphere in the early hours of Monday, Spaceweather.com reported. It is unlikely that a coronal discharge will follow the solar activity, and if it does, whether will head toward Earth.

According to the European Space Agency's website, a solar flare is released when energy stored in twisted magnetic fields is suddenly released. These events usually occur over sunspots, regions of the Sun where magnetic fields cause temporary disturbances in the convection of heat on the Sun.

Therefore, the temperature of these areas reduces significantly, making them appear like darker spots against the solar surface, hence the name. Scientists look at sunspots in a bid to predict space weather than can severely impact spacecraft and astronauts in space.

Medium-intensity solar flare

The recent solar flare came from the sunspot AR 3141, which has grown in size in the past 24 hours, EarthSky.org said in its report. The eruption was classified as an M5.2, even where M denotes the class of solar flares and is a medium-intensity eruption. In comparison, classes A, B, and C are low-intensity events, while Class X flares are wildly the highest-intensity flares.

The flares travel across space carrying radiation across the electromagnetic spectrum, including X-rays and gamma rays. The higher the intensity of the flares, the greater, the damage they can cause. Luckily on Earth, the radiation first meets the Earth's atmosphere, and the energy transfers result in beautiful auroras in the sky.

Excess energy can sometimes knock down satellites, as SpaceX experienced earlier in the year, and the power grids experience energy surges and outages. On this occasion, the flare caused some disruption of the upper layers of the atmosphere, causing loss of radio signals and blackouts in the South Pacific region over Australia and New Zealand.

What to expect next?

Scientists have been keeping an eye on the sunspot to watch out for more activity as it grows larger. EarthSky.org reported that the region also let out a coronal mass ejection (CME) that carries particulate matter along with radiation. However, this wasn't directed toward Earth.

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Apart from the Class M flare, the sunspot has also produced nine C-class flares, and there is a 50 percent chance of C-class flares to occur again in the next 24 hours and a comparatively lower five percent chance of M-class flares.

The rest of the day might be comparatively silent. Still, more activity is expected on November 8 and 9 since as many as six active regions have been identified in a straight line along the northern hemisphere of the Sun.

The star of our planetary system is currently undergoing a major change, and it flips its poles as part of its 11-year cycle. As the cycle has entered an active phase as it nears its peak, more solar activity is expected in the coming months and years.

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