Massive solar flare disrupts radio in Africa and the Middle East, but it’s only the beginning

(ORDO NEWS) — An active sunspot, already leaving the visible disk of the Sun, fired a farewell flash directly towards the Earth. The outbreak caused a radio blackout in Africa and the Middle East on the evening of 16 September.

The solar flare, which is classified as M8 in the second most energetic category of flares, temporarily disabled shortwave radio communications in areas of the Earth facing the Sun. Radio amateurs in Africa and the Middle East could experience signal distortion for up to one hour after the outbreak.

Geomagnetic storm ahead

The British meteorological bureau Met Office predicts that in the future there remains the possibility of further outbreaks before sunspot AR3098 completely disappears behind the limb (the edge of the visible disk of the Sun).

A coronal mass ejection (CME), a burst of charged plasma from the upper layers of the Sun’s atmosphere, the corona could accompany the flare and, possibly, is heading towards the Earth. If so, the planet could experience a geomagnetic storm at the end of the weekend.

On Thursday, September 15, there was another, weaker, ECM-related flare that is still being analyzed for its potential to hit and impact Earth. All of this could be good news for aurora hunters, as spectacular auroras can get stronger and look beyond their usual areas.

What is the weather like in the Sun

After sunspot AR3098 finally disappears, which is expected to happen later during the weekend, the sunny weather will subside somewhat.

Three more sunspots are now visible on the Sun’s surface, all of which “appear to be stable and relatively simple magnetically,” the Met Office said. Space weather forecasters have so far not shown any suspicious activity that could signal the approach of other active sunspots.

The Sun also has a coronal hole, a hole in the magnetic field lines from which the solar wind blows at a faster-than-usual speed, which could contribute to the aurora at higher latitudes.

All of the solar wind and ECM combined is not expected to cause more than a minor geomagnetic storm, meaning that electrical and radio communications technologies on Earth should not experience any disruption.

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