Elevated levels of solar activity results in sustained solar radiation storming

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Last week, scientists from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Space Weather Prediction Centre (SWPC) identified a pair of sunspot clusters on the Sun associated with active regions, that were predicted to be sites of intense solar activity. The sunspot regions were both larger than the Earth, and aimed straight at the planet, so any filament eruptions, solar flares, or coronal mass ejections (CMES) from them would batter the Earth. Just as predicted, flaring from the cluster caused radio blackouts over APAC, Australia and Africa, with a CME resulting in a minor radiation storm. A tenflare was also observed, along with an extended geomagnetic storm, and a pair of CMEs that were fortunately not aimed at the Earth.

All of this solar activity increased the levels of energetic, fast moving charged particles streaming out of the Sun towards the Earth, resulting in a sustained solar radiation storm between 9 and 13 February, 2024. This was a minor storm that, and radiation storming at this level is not unusual. After beginning on 9 February, the storm showed signs of decreasing in intensity on 11 February, but then continued to increase in strength. The SWPC has indicated that the general public has nothing to worry about from the storming, which is expected to continue through 14 February, 2024 as well.

The solar radiation storms is on the lowest level on the scale, and is not expected to have any impact on biological systems or satellite operations. There is the possibility of a slight risk to space launches. During such solar radiation storms, astronauts on board orbital platforms such as the International Space Station (ISS) or the Tiangong Space Station may be exposed to higher levels of radiation. Crew and passengers of high altitude aircraft will also be exposed to higher levels of radiation. Such storms also disrupt high frequency radio communications, particularly in the polar regions.

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