Solar flares from grumpy-looking Sun causing radio blackouts on Earth

GREENBELT, Md. — A grumpy-looking Sun is responsible for causing radio blackouts on Earth during the beginning February 2023. Researchers say powerful solar flares followed activity centered in the Sun’s northern hemisphere and southeast edge. The resulting patterns are making the star look like eyes and a crooked mouth.

Sunspot regions released a string of seven M flares which, categorized as medium-sized, generally cause brief radio blackouts that usually affect Earth’s polar regions. However, the largest one on Feb. 9 affected South Africa’s east coast and Madagascar. Solar flares are large eruptions of electromagnetic radiation from the Sun lasting from minutes to hours.

The sudden outburst of electromagnetic energy travels at the speed of light, therefore any effect upon the sunlit side of Earth’s exposed outer atmosphere occurs at the same time the event is observed. Minor radiation storms sometimes follow an M-class flare.

Ultraviolet light image of the Sun
Different extreme-ultraviolet light views show different details of the Sun (Credit: SWNS)

NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) observed these events. The spacecraft’s mission is to observe the Sun’s dynamics to “increase understanding of the nature and sources of solar variability.” SDO documents the outer atmosphere of the Sun – called the corona – as well as hot flare plasma.

“Hot active regions, solar flares, and coronal mass ejections will appear bright here,” NASA explains, according to a statement from SWNS. “The dark areas – called coronal holes – are places where very little radiation is emitted, yet are the main source of solar wind particles.”

South West News Service writer Dean Murray contributed to this report.

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