Incoming 'flurry' of solar flares could shutdown radio signals on Earth this week

A SOLAR storm that could shut down radio signals and cause navigation blackouts might be heading our way.

That's according to experts who have warned the Sun could shoot solar flares to Earth that cause radio blackouts.

Nasa previously explained: "The energy from a flare can disrupt the area of the atmosphere through which radio waves travel.

"This can lead to degradation and, at worst, temporary blackouts in navigation and communications signals."

A recently formed sunspot on the solar surface is said to have emitted a number of strong 'M-class' flares.

It's 'M-class' solar flares that have the ability to cause radio blackouts.

Astronomer Dr Tony Phillips of Space Weather wrote on his website: "Yesterday, May 22nd, sunspot AR2824 unleashed a flurry of solar flares, unlike anything we've seen in years.

"NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory recorded 9 C-class flares and 2 M-class flares in only 24 hours.

"The rapidfire explosions hurled multiple overlapping CMEs into space.

"NOAA analysts are still untangling the clouds to determine if any might hit Earth.

"So far, none appears to be squarely Earth-directed, but glancing blows are possible starting on May 26th."

The Earth's magnetic field helps to protect us from the more extreme consequences of solar flares.

Weaker solar flares are responsible for auroras like the Northern Lights.

Those natural light displays are examples of the Earth's magnetosphere getting bombarded by solar wind, which creates the pretty green and blue displays.

However, the Sun can also emit flares called 'coronal mass ejection', or CME, which are far stronger than an M-class solar flare.

In 1989, a strong solar eruption shot so many electrically charged particles at Earth that the Canadian Province of Quebec lost power for nine hours.

Solar flares may cause issues for our tech on Earth but they could be deadly for an astronaut if they result in injury or interfere with mission control communications.

The Sun is currently at the start of a new 11 year solar cycle, which usually sees eruptions and flares grow more intense and extreme.

These events are expected to peak around 2025 and it's hoped the Solar Orbiter will observe them all as it aims to fly within 26 million miles of the Sun.

The Sun – all the facts you need to know

What is it, why does it exist, and why is it so ruddy hot all the time?

  • The Sun is a huge star that lives at the centre of our solar system
  • It's a nearly perfect sphere of hot plasma, and provides most of the energy for life on Earth
  • It measures a staggering 865,000 miles across – making it 109 times bigger than Earth
  • But its weight is 330,000 times that of Earth, and accounts for almost all of the mass in the Solar System
  • The Sun is mostly made up of hydrogen (73%), helium (25%) and then a number of other elements like oyxgen, carbon and iron
  • Its surface temperature is around 5,505C
  • Scientists describe the Sun as being "middle-aged"
  • The Sun formed 4.6billion years ago, and tt's been in its current state for around four billion years
  • It's expected that it will remain stable for another five billion years
  • It doesn't have enough mass to explode as a supernova
  • Instead, we expect it to turn a hulking red giant
  • During this phase, it will be so big that it will engulf Mercury, Venus and Earth
  • Eventually it will turn into an incredibly hot white dwarf, and will stay that way for trillions of years

 

In other space news, a Nasa spacecraft has begun a 1.4billion-mile journey back to Earth after collecting rock samples from an ancient asteroid.

China's Mars rover has landed on the Red Planet after a treacherous descent through the Martian atmosphere using a parachute in "seven minutes of terror".

And, Nasa has released historic first audio recordings captured on the surface of Mars.

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