Space claw! Sun shoots powerful flare that knocks out shortwave radio (video)

A medium-sized solar flare briefly blocked shortwave radio Tuesday (Feb. 7).

The active sun fired off several solar flares in recent days, with one causing a momentary lapse in shortwave communications over the Pacific Ocean at 6:07 p.m. EST (2307 GMT), according to (opens in new tab).

The originating area is a huge Earth-facing sunspot, AR3213, which currently stretches across 62,000 miles (100,000 km) of the surface of the sun. Magnetic tangling in the sunspot caused the lines to "snap," firing off charged solar particles towards our planet via a medium-class (M6) flare.

Related: Strange unprecedented vortex spotted around the sun's north pole

A powerful solar flare bursts out from the sun on Feb. 7, 2023. (Image credit: NASA/SDO/

The sun is climbing towards a peak in its 11-year cycle that it should reach in 2025. There's ample evidence of the sun firing off flares already in pictures and videos from sun-gazing satellites, like NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory. These were shared extensively by users on Twitter.

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Most solar activity is harmless and just causes brief interruptions in shortwave, but the sun is able to generate more powerful bursts of energy that can knock out satellites or other infrastructure.

As such, NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) partner with entities around the world to keep a 24/7 watch on our solar neighbor through telescopes, satellites and other observations in multiple wavelengths.

Burgeoning science also seeks to better understand how solar activity originates. For example, NASA's Parker Solar Probe and ESA's Solar Orbiter both swoop within a close range of the sun to sample the solar wind of particles that stream through the solar system, and to examine solar structures and the sun's atmosphere up close.

Elizabeth Howell is the co-author of "Why Am I Taller (opens in new tab)?" (ECW Press, 2022; with Canadian astronaut Dave Williams), a book about space medicine. Follow her on Twitter @howellspace (opens in new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab) or Facebook (opens in new tab).

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for (opens in new tab) for 10 years before joining full-time, freelancing since 2012. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and (soon) a Bachelor of History from Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science since 2015. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: