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What caused a recent worldwide radio outage?

Answer: The largest solar flare in years.

The sun shining brightly surrounded by a few clouds. The whole image is lit orange and yellow from sunlight.
Shutterstock/Ed Connor
If you happened to be trying to use a radio on Thursday and things went awry, it was probably because of the sun. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory recorded the largest solar flare since 2017, and places all over the globe where the sun happened to be shining felt the effects.

The global radio disruptions lasted for about two hours. The U.S. Space Weather Prediction Center said multiple pilots reported communication disruptions. NASA’s telescope recorded the incident in extreme ultraviolet light, and reported that the results look like a huge, bright flash. The telescope has been orbiting the Earth since 2010 and continuously monitors the sun.

The solar flare occurred on the far northwest section of the sun, and scientists are now closely monitoring the spot in case of a plasma outburst. Maximum sun spot activity such as this is expected next year as the sun reaches the peak of its roughly 11-year solar cycle.