The sun produced a huge solar flare over the Easter holiday weekend, triggering radio blackouts over southeast Asia and Australia, experts said.
The Easter solar eruption peaked at 11:34 p.m. EDT on Sunday (0334 GMT on April 17), according to the United States Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC), and was followed shortly after by a coronal mass ejection (CME).
A CME is a jet of plasma and highly magnetized particles that can contain up to a billion tons of matter.
“An X1 flare was observed at 17/0334 UTC from newly numbered Region 2994 (N14E75),” the agency said in an update. “This R3 (Strong) event had an associated Type II radio sweep and 10 cm radio burst.”
When the Earth is in the direct path of a CME, the particles ejected from the sun interact with the Earth’s magnetic field, producing geomagnetically induced currents (GIC).
These currents can cause major geomagnetic storms that disrupt communication satellites and long-distance cables that provide the world with the internet.
However, experts said that the bulk of the CME that occurred over the weekend will avoid hitting earth as it orbits around the sun and passes behind our planet, although there is a chance that a component of the CME is directed toward earth, and analysts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are currently monitoring this.
“This is the third strongest solar flare of the current cycle,” SWPC said. “A partial halo coronal mass ejection was released into space but it is not expected to arrive at Earth.”
The flare erupted from Regions 2994 and 2993, a cluster of active sunspots that has seen “substantial flaring” before it first emerged on the Sun’s eastern limb.
X-class flares, known as major solar events, are significant solar flares that emit enough radiation to trigger radio blackouts across the globe and long-lasting radiation storms.
According to the SWPC, a pulse of X-rays from the flare over the weekend sparked a strong shortwave radio blackout over southeast Asia and Australia.
“Mariners, aviators, and ham radio operators may have noticed unusual propagation effects at frequencies below 30 MHz,” the agency said, noting that solar activity is expected to be active over the next week as “these sunspots migrate across the visible disk.”
The latest solar flare comes amid an increase in solar activity during the sun’s 11-year solar weather cycle, which saw the current one, known as Solar Cycle 25, start in 2019.
Scientists at NASA have said they expect the Sun’s activity to ramp up toward the next predicted maximum in July 2025, which in turn will mean more flares are likely to occur.