Another “Behemoth Solar Flare” Sparks Radio Blackout Across North America

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After a weekend of the strongest solar storms to rock the planet in years, producing aurora across Europe, the United States, and as far as New Zealand, there is news the sun just burped its largest solar flare of Solar Cycle 25, according to space weather website Solarham.

“The largest solar flare of the current solar cycle 25, and largest since 2017 was just observed around deparing AR 3664 off the west limb. The X8.7 event peaked at 16:51 UTC (May 14) causing a strong R3 level radio blackout directly over North America,” Solarham wrote.

Solarham continued: “A filament located in the northeast quadrant erupted earlier today and produced a light bulb shaped CME. So far the blast appears to be headed mostly north of the Sun-Earth line. A further update will be provided whenever necessary.”

NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center wrote this solar flare was the largest of the cycle cycle (and the 17th most intense solar flare ever recorded). They said the flare was a “behemoth X8.7-class flare let loose from the very infamous parting Active Region 3664. It is the most intense flare seen since 2017.”

SWPC highlighted some good news: the solar flare was not directly facing Earth.

One X user responded to SWPC:

“If this happened when this group was earth-facing, during all the other craziness, this could have been remarkably bad.” 

About one year ago, solar physicist Alex James at the University of College London warned that the sun’s increase in solar activity was a sign that the solar maximum could arrive much sooner than anticipated.

All this evidence suggests that Solar Cycle 25 is “going to peak earlier, and it’s going to peak higher than expected,” James said. 

Here is a graph of Solar Cycle 25.

In 2016, the federal government became increasingly serious about potential grid-down events produced by solar storms with an executive order signed by the Obama Administration titled “Coordinating Efforts to Prepare the Nation for Space Weather Events.”

While the nation’s power grid, SpaceX’s Starlink satellite constellation, and other communication networks involving space-based transmission all survived the weekend solar blast, some disruptions were reported, including GPS and short-wave radio.

Sigh… 

 

 

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