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Week in tech: Big solar flare temporarily disrupts radio signals on Earth

A Nasa telescope captured the solar flare, which researchers said was the biggest in years, causing two hours of radio interference in parts of the world

FILE - A coal-fired power plant operates near wind turbines Niederaussem, Germany, as the sun rises on Nov. 2, 2022.
FILE - A coal-fired power plant operates near wind turbines Niederaussem, Germany, as the sun rises on Nov. 2, 2022. (AP)

Here’s a look at what made news in the world of science and technology this week.

Biggest solar flare in years temporarily disrupts radio signals on Earth

A massive solar flare knocked out radio communication on Earth briefly on 14 December. A Nasa telescope captured the solar flare, which researchers said was the biggest in years, causing two hours of radio interference in parts of the US and other sunlit parts of the world. According to an Associated Press (AP) report, scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said it was the biggest flare since 2017, and the radio burst was extensive, affecting even the higher frequencies. Multiple pilots reported communication disruptions, according to the NOAA. Scientists are now monitoring this sunspot region and analyzing for a possible outburst of plasma from the sun, also known as a coronal mass ejection, that might be directed at Earth, the AP report added.

Isro to put first astronaut on Moon by 2040

Building on the success of the Chandrayaan-3 mission, Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) chairman S Somnath said this week that the space agency plans to send Indian astronauts for the first time to the Moon by 2040. The Bengaluru-based Isro is currently working on India's maiden manned mission, 'Gaganyaan', which aims to send astronauts into Low Earth Orbit and bring them back safely to earth. Four pilots from the Indian Air Force who were selected for the mission are undergoing training at the Astronaut Training Facility in Bengaluru, the top scientist said, according to a Press Trust of India report. Earlier this month, Isro’s other ongoing mission, Aditya L1, successfully captured the first full-disk images of the Sun in the 200-400 nm wavelength range using the Solar Ultraviolet Imaging Telescope (SUIT) instrument on board the spacecraft. Aditya L1 is India’s maiden solar mission.

Coal use hits record in 2023, says IEA

Global consumption of coal reached an all-time high in 2023, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said on 15 December. The Paris-based autonomous intergovernmental organisation, that works with countries on shaping energy policies, said that nations would burn even more coal this year than in 2022, the previous record for consumption of the key source of planet-warming gases, an AFP report said. This update comes at a time when the EU’s Copernicus Climate Change Service said that 2023 will also be the hottest on record. The IEA, however, said that after peaking this year, worldwide coal consumption was expected to start declining in 2024, as renewable power generation from solar and wind continues to expand, the AFP report said. The report added: “The IEA's latest forecasts were published two days after the conclusion of the United Nations climate negotiations (COP28) in Dubai where nearly 200 countries reached a deal that the world should be ‘transitioning away from fossil fuels’ to limit global warming.”

Compiled by Nitin Sreedhar, with inputs from agencies.

Also read: Climate scientists push back against COP28 cheer on fossil fuels

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