28th October 2021 – Solar Flare from Sunspot AR2887

Earth orbiting satellites have just detected an X1-class solar flare from Earth-facing sunspot AR2887. The blast at 1535 UT on Oct. 28th (2335 Oct 28th MYT) created a massive tsunami of plasma in the sun’s atmosphere. There is strong evidence that an associated Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) has accompanied the flare. A CME is an explosion of material from the sun, mainly consisting of highly energetic charged particles.

When the CME hits the earth, the trajectory of the charged particles associated with the CME are perturbed by the earth’s magnetic field. As the particles spiral along the earth’s magnetic field lines into the earth’s upper atmosphere, they interact with molecules in the earth’s upper atmosphere, sparking auroral displays near the poles.

Some alterations in radio propagation behavior in the earth’s atmosphere can occur, where long range communications that rely on the bouncing of radio waves off the plasma layer in the atmosphere could be affected. In addition, the energetic charged particles can affect functionality of satellites, potentially disrupting communications and certain satellite functionalities. In the northern latitudes, the CME can cause disruptions to power grids from the magnetic fields generated by the traveling charged particles.
For us near the equator, the CME should not cause too much of an issue other than perhaps some minor inconveniences in low frequency radio communications as well as the aforementioned disruption in satellite functions.

Article by Dr. Derrick Lim
Photos credit: Michael Teoh / Heng Ee Observatory