Biggest solar flare in years temporarily disrupts radio signals on Earth


This photo provided by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory captured this image of a solar flare, as seen in the bright flash in the upper right, on Thursday, Dec. 14, 2023. The sun spit out the huge flare at noon on Thursday, resulting in two hours of radio interference in the U.S. and other sunlit parts of the world. (NASA via AP)AP

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — A NASA telescope has captured the biggest solar flare in years, which temporarily knocked out radio communication on Earth.

The sun spit out the huge flare along with a massive radio burst on Thursday, causing two hours of radio interference in parts of the U.S. and other sunlit parts of the world. Scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said it was the biggest flare since 2017, and the radio burst was extensive, affecting even the higher frequencies.

The combination resulted in one of the largest solar radio events ever recorded, Shawn Dahl of NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center said Friday.


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Multiple pilots reported communication disruptions, with the impact felt across the country, according to the space weather forecasting center. Scientists are now monitoring this sunspot region and analyzing for a possible outburst of plasma from the sun, also known as a coronal mass ejection, that might be directed at Earth. This could result in a geomagnetic storm, Dahl said, which in turn could disrupt high-frequency radio signals at the higher latitudes and trigger northern lights, or auroras, in the coming days.

The eruption occurred in the far northwest section of the sun. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory caught the action in extreme ultraviolet light, recording the powerful surge of energy as a huge, bright flash. Launched in 2010, the spacecraft is in an extremely high orbit around Earth, where it constantly monitors the sun.

The sun is nearing the peak of its 11-year or so solar cycle. Maximum sunspot activity is predicted for 2025.


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