A high-magnitude solar flare — X1.1 class — hit planet Earth on Saturday morning (30). The storm, which took place in sunspot AR2994 (short for Active Region 2994), began at 10:37 am ET and peaked in intensity about 10 minutes later.
The explosion, which occurred on the northwest side of the Sun relative to Earth, hit our planet and produced enough radiation for a strong shortwave radio blackout. The effect lasted about an hour, affecting regions of the Atlantic Ocean and much of Europe.
The warning was issued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of Space Weather Forecast Group. The event was also captured by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, which was able to map different wavelengths of light during the explosion.
According to astronomer Tony Phillips, X-class solar flares are the most powerful on the Sun. In a post on his spaceweather.com website, the scientist explains that the explosion triggered an intense coronal mass ejection (CME) of charged particles. But since the sunspot AR2994 was not facing the Earth, these particles did not reach the planet.
The storm happened on the same day as the first partial solar eclipse of 2022 on Saturday. The phenomenon could be observed in some regions of South America, especially in Argentina and Chile, but also in parts of Antarctica and some locations in the Pacific Ocean, just before or during sunset. As the eclipse was partial, the moon and sun were not perfectly aligned.
Not every solar flare is the same
The explosions that happen on the sun can occur in different magnitudes and that is why they are classified by scientists to measure their severity. The weakest storms are considered Class A, Class B, and Class C. Class M storms are strong enough to amplify Earth’s northern lights when they hit the planet.
Class X eruptions are the strongest the sun experiences. When pointed directly at Earth, they can pose a risk to satellites and astronauts, as well as interfere with power stations and radio signals on the surface.
Each solar flare class has nine intensity divisions, with the exception of X-rays. The biggest known storm happened in 2003, when sensors were able to monitor up to X28 degree before being overtaken by the explosion.
The sun has an 11-year space weather cycle. The current one is known as Solar Cycle 25, which began in 2019. Currently, the celestial body is in an increasingly active phase of this cycle.
In addition to NASA, the events are also being monitored by the US-Europe Joint Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) and other spacecraft.